LATEST: What we know so far about police anti-terror arrests in Denmark

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
LATEST: What we know so far about police anti-terror arrests in Denmark
Police near the synagogue at Krystalgade in Copenhagen following Thursday's anti-terror raids across Denmark. Photo: Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Police in Denmark have made several arrests in response to a suspected planned terror attack, and two suspects have been remanded in custody by Frederiksberg District Court. Here’s what we know so far.


What happened and where? 

Four arrests were made on Thursday morning in a coordinated action between several Danish police districts and domestic intelligence service PET on Thursday, with several locations also raided by law enforcement officers.

A related arrested was made by police in The Netherlands, Danish authorities confirmed at a briefing.

One of the three arrested in Denmark has since been released, but a total of six are now in preliminary detention – albeit with four of the six in absentia.

Two people were brought before the district court in Frederiksberg late on Thursday night, while the third arrested in Denmark was let go. The two who were present can be held in police custody until January 9th, the court ruled.

One of the two is a woman who denies her guilt, and one is “known in immigrant circles in Copenhagen” and has spoken publicly about “civil wars and the situation for Muslims in Denmark” according to broadcaster DR.

PET has already confirmed a link to the illegal Copenhagen organised crime group Loyal To Familia (LTF), and according to DR's court reporter, two of those jailed in absentia are known members of the gang.   

The couple held in Copenhagen are both being charged under terror laws but, because the preliminary hearing was conducted behind what is termed “double closed doors”, the exact details of the charges and the identity of the suspects is not public.

What exactly is the problem?

Flemming Drejer, operative leader with PET, said at Thursday's briefing that little information could be released at the current time due to authorities’ preference to conduct court hearings behind double-closed doors. That means no information relating to potential charges is made public during or following the hearing, with media not permitted to be present at the hearing.

The arrests were made as the result of what Drejer called a “security action” which was “based on an intensive investigation in cooperation with our foreign partners”.

“I can say that our investigation revealed that a network of persons were engaged in preparing a terror act. We have moved against it at an early stage. We would call it a security operation,” he said.

The intelligence chief said no further detail could be given on the “motive or target” of the plans, but confirmed a link to organised crime group Loyal to Familia (LTF), which was in 2021 legally dissolved by the Danish Supreme Court.

He also said connections had been identified with “persons who live in Denmark and abroad”. PET has also confirmed there were "ramifications involving other countries" of the Danish arrests. 

In a statement released yesterday evening, PET said there is “no direct link between the terror arrests made in Denmark and the case being discussed in relation to Hamas-affiliated persons arrested in Germany”, also stating that “we are at an early stage of the investigation and have not firmly clarified what connections the Danish case has to other countries”.

That came after German authorities said that they had arrested Hamas-linked individuals suspected of planning attacks. In Berlin, prosecutors confirmed police had arrested four suspected members of Hamas on Thursday, who they said were preparing an attack against Jewish targets in Europe.


How many arrests have been made?

Four initial arrests were made, three in Denmark and one in the Netherlands. Of the Danish arrests, one man has been released while a man and a woman have been remanded in custody until January 9th, after court proceedings on Thursday afternoon.

Four additional persons were also remanded in custody by the court in absentia, making six active arrests.

Police are reported to have appealed against the released of the third person arrested in Denmark, a 29-year-old man.

Prosecutors at Thursday's hearing said further suspects are thought to be at large, DR reported, but it is unclear whether any of the four charged in absentia have been detained in other countries.

The man arrested in the Netherlands has since been released, Danish news wire Ritzau reports.


What else do we know?

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has called the arrests “as serious as it gets”.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of an EU summit on Thursday, Frederiksen said she was “grateful for the work of the authorities, but it shows what kind of situation we are in in Denmark”.

“For a number of years now, we’ve been able to state that some people who live in Denmark want to harm us. They are against our democracy, freedom, and are against Danish society,” she also said.

Frederiksen also said that both PET and military intelligence service FE consider the terror threat against Denmark to be high.

The PM also said that the situation is “very, very serious and in relation to the Israel-Gaza conflict completely unacceptable for someone to take a conflict from somewhere else in the world into Danish society,” she said. It is unclear how much can or should be read into this comment.

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen called the situation “concerning” in comments to DR.

“But it would be even more concerning if something happened without it being stopped by an intervention,” he added.


At the police briefing, neither Drejer nor Peter Dahl, senior inspector with Copenhagen Police gave any detail of the type of extremism involved in the arrests but the latter noted there would be increased police presence on central Copenhagen’s streets, with Drejer saying authorities were “paying attention to Jewish locations”.

Denmark’s terror alert level is unchanged at 4 on a scale of 5 following Thursday’s events.

Drejer said that, despite the security operation, the risk to members of the public of being affected by terror remains “vanishingly small”.

“It will still be Christmas in Denmark and we should still do the things we usually do, with the alertness we normally have here in Denmark,” he said.

Despite this, the Jewish community in Denmark was forced to cancel a public Hanukkah celebration planned for Thursday evening, due to the security situation.

The celebration was due to take place at City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) but was cancelled after the coordinated anti-terror raids earlier in the day.

Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal of organisation Chabad Danmark confirmed in an email to Ritzau that the event had been cancelled.


Why has the Israeli government commented on the Danish arrests?

Israel said on Thursday afternoon that the suspects arrested in Denmark were "acting on behalf of the Hamas" militant group, but a Danish terror researcher said this was far from certain.

A statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Danish security forces "arrested seven terrorists acting on behalf of the Hamas terrorist organisation, and thwarted an attack, the goal of which was to kill innocent civilians on European soil."

Political scientist and terror researcher Tore Hamming told DR – prior to the announcement of the arrests in Germany – that the statement from the Israeli government was one “I would be very cautious about believing”, while also recognising the claim was not impossible.

Hamming noted that Hamas is a nationalist group that normally only focuses on Palestine and territories around Israel.

“Terror in the West is not normally something Hamas does or would particularly benefit from,” he said.

“It’s also a campaign we’ve seen from Netanyahu in particular, where Hamas is linked to extremism,” he said.


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