(CNN) — Dutch authorities have arrested 12 men of Somali origin they believe were about to carry out a terrorist attack, authorities said Saturday.
“The attack was said to be imminent so the national police started an investigation which led to the arrest of 12 Somalis later on Friday in Rotterdam,” de Bruin said. “We are not sure about what the target was, how they were going to carry out the attack or when.”
The men, between ages 19 and 48, were arrested in various locations. Police have searched a pawn shop, four homes and two hotel rooms, de Bruin said.
Six of the suspects live in Rotterdam and one is from Denmark. Some are Dutch citizens. They all are of Somali origin, de Bruin said.
War-torn Somalia has a virtually powerless central government and is home to several militant groups, including Al-Shabaab, which controls much of the country
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including a series of bombs that tore through an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby center in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Officials said the July 11 blasts, which killed 79 people, were probably set off by suicide bombers.
The United States this year charged several people with trying to funnel money or otherwise assist Somali extremists. Al-Shabaab has been linked to al Qaeda.
The report noted several cases of Dutch citizens trying to travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab, including four arrested in 2009 in Kenya.
The arrests in the Netherlands followed an unrelated sweep a few days before in the United Kingdom.
An operation Monday led by the British intelligence service, MI5, resulted in arrests of 12 suspects ranging in age from 17 to 28 in the cities of London, Stoke and Birmingham, England, as well as Cardiff, Wales.
A senior British official not authorized to speak on the record said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of “preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK,” but he also said the suspects were “aspirational” rather than equipped and “ready to go.”