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Concert cancelled in Netherlands because of 'terrorist threat'

Rotterdam police arrested Spanish driver of van but anti-terrorist force sources said there was no link to terrorism
Police cars near concert venue Maassilo after rock concert was cancelled because of possible attack (AFP)

Dutch officials found a van with Spanish licence plates loaded with gas canisters on Wednesday, after cancelling a rock concert in Rotterdam following a terror attack warning.

The Spanish driver of the van "was arrested and taken to the police station," Rotterdam police said in a Tweet.

Spanish news agency Europa Press, quoting Spanish anti-terrorist force sources, reported later that the Spaniard arrested in Rotterdam had, in principle, no links to militancy. The gas canisters in his vehicle were apparently for domestic use, it said.

Dutch bomb squad officials "were investigating the van," they added, which had been found close to the Maassilo concert hall in the city.

It comes less than a week after twin car bomb attacks in Spain claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group killed 15 people.

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But the suspect under arrest is not connected to the attacks in Catalonia last week, a judicial source told Reuters.

The source said the tip given by Spanish authorities to their Dutch counterparts was the result of an investigation by the Spanish Civil Guard that had been underway for some time and had no direct relation to the two vehicle attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in Catalonia.

Earlier in the evening, the Dutch authorities had decided to cancel the concert by American rock group Allah-Las in Europe's largest port city after receiving a tip-off from Spanish police at about 5:30pm local time about a possible attack.

The Maassilo venue in Rotterdam announced they cancelled the concert because of a “terrorist threat”.

“The Allah-Las concert will not take place this evening, on police orders," the venue said.

The city's mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, told a hastily called news conference that an investigation will be launched to determine if the van was linked to the reported terror threat. He added it was important not to jump to any hasty conclusions.

The building where the concert was to be held, which holds as many as 1,000 people, was evacuated and searched by the Dutch anti-terror squad.

The Dutch national broadcaster NOS showed images of police officers wearing bulletproof vests combing in the area.

The Netherlands has so far been spared from the slew of terror attacks that have rocked its closest European neighbours in recent years.

"The threat level to the Netherlands is substantial, which means that an attack in the Netherlands is a real danger and can actually happen," national counter-terrorism coordinator Dick Schoof warned in May 2016.

Schiphol airport, outside Amsterdam, is one of Europe's busiest air hubs. It was the scene of a late-night evacuation in April 2016 when a drunken, homeless man sparked a security scare, just a few weeks after the Brussels metro and airport suicide bombings.

And in November, Rotterdam airport was the target of a reported terror threat, which also turned out to be false.