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Dutch PM Rutte 'given extra security after death threats'

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By Josephine Joly  & Reuters, AFP
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Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves on his bike after voting in the European elections in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, May 23, 2019
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves on his bike after voting in the European elections in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, May 23, 2019   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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Dutch police have increased security around Prime Minister Mark Rutte, after receiving signals of a possible attack by criminals linked to the drug trade, a Dutch newspaper reported on Monday.

Rutte, whose conservative government has vowed to crack down on organised crime, has always sought to maintain a limited level of personal protection since taking office almost 11 years ago.

The Prime Minister is often seen cycling to and from his home and government buildings in The Hague, and is often approached by passers-by wishing to take selfies with him or to chat.

Specially trained police officers from the Dutch royal and diplomatic security services were assigned to protect Rutte with "visible and invisible measures," according to De Telegraaf.

An anonymous government source confirmed the report in De Telegraaf. Dutch national security authorities declined to comment on the report.

Speaking to reporters, Rutte said that "safety and protection are issues never to be discussed in public".

Although gun violence in the Netherlands is rare, killings and violence linked to the drug trade have become more common in recent years, as underworld figures compete for territory.

In July, the well-known Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries was shot in broad daylight in Amsterdam, months after taking on the role of counsellor to the star witness in a high-profile drug case. He died of his injuries days later.

The former lawyer of the star witness had been killed in a similar fashion in front of his Amsterdam home in 2019.

Other threats to politicians are not uncommon. Anti-Islam opposition leader Geert Wilders has been forced to live in a safe house and to surround himself with bodyguards since 2004 due to continuous death threats.

In recent months, several people around the country have been fined or handed short jail sentences for threatening ministers and lawmakers, mainly over COVID-19 policies.