Three members of an extremist Dutch Islamic group were arrested and deported from Portugal just before the Euro 2004 football championship in June on suspicion of planning an attack, the former head of Portugal’s police force said in comments published.
The men were arrested June 11 in Oporto, one day before the northern Portuguese city hosted the opening match of the championship, Adelino Salvado told the Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias.
The Dutch interior ministry last week identified the three as belonging to the so-called Hofstad group, which has been linked to the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh earlier this month.
Salvado said he suspected the group wanted to target former prime minister Jose Manuel Barroso, who resigned in July to become the next head of the European Commission, as well as other international figures who were in Oporto for Euro 2004 opening festivities.
The three men possessed a second-hand car with Dutch licence plates which had been bought in the name of van Gogh’s alleged killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, and had made daily withdrawals of small amounts of cash from a bank at the airport.
Among the three men was El Fahtni Noreddine, a Moroccan national who at one point shared a flat in Amsterdam with Bouyeri, who holds both Moroccan and Dutch citizenship, he added.