The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, who cycles to work in The Hague, has reportedly been given extra personal security in response to raised fears of a kidnapping or attack by organised crime.
The decision was made after “spotters” were seen scoping out Rutte’s movements, raising concerns about a possible move by one of the country’s drug gangs.
According to De Telegraaf newspaper, specially trained police officers from the Royal and Diplomatic Security Service (DKDB) have been deployed to shadow Rutte, who has often eschewed close protection during his 10 years as premier.
An ”elite security guard” was visibly in position during a two-day budget debate last week, which the Telegraaf reported was a result of the increased security brief. A government spokesperson declined to comment.
The far-right politician Geert Wilders tweeted: “Terrible. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Good luck Prime Minister Rutte.”
The Telegraaf journalist Mick van Wely told the TV programme Goedemorgen Nederland: “We know it’s taken very seriously and there are really big concerns about this.”
There have been increasingly violent incidents involving drug gangs, including the so-called mocro (Moroccan) mafia, leading to claims from the Dutch police union that the Netherlands is becoming a “narco state”.
The recent murder of the prominent Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries has been seen by police as an effort by organised criminals to show that nobody is out of their reach.
Investigators believe film footage and photographs of a dying De Vries that emerged on social media shortly after he was attacked were taken and circulated by gang members as a warning to others.
The scale of the violence has been highlighted during the high-profile Marengo trial, in which 17 alleged gang members are accused of being part of a “well-oiled murder machine”.
The chief suspect in the trial, Ridouan Taghi was reportedly described by a police chief as “one of the world’s most dangerous and wanted men” before his arrest in Dubai in 2019.
De Vries had been acting as a spokesperson for the key prosecution witness, Nabil B, a former gang member turned informant, before he was killed.
Between 20 and 30 people involved in the case, including judges and lawyers, have been given extra security. A lawyer for Taghi has denied that his client had any involvement in De Vries’ murder.
Last week the government announced that an extra €400m would be spent in 2022-23 fighting organised crime.