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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 18:51 GMT
Bomb scares shut Dutch Ikea stores
Ikea store in Amsterdam
Suspicious were found at three different Dutch stores
Police in the Netherlands have been searching all 10 outlets of the Ikea furniture chain in the country, after finding bombs in two of its stores.


We must not create an image that terrorism has suddenly struck in the Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende
Two devices were discovered in Amsterdam and Sliedrecht, near the port city of Rotterdam, on Tuesday evening. The bomb found at the Sliedrecht store later exploded at a police station, injuring two policemen.

A suspect package in an IKEA store in the central town Utrecht was blown up but later found to be harmless, but another in the a store in the eastern city of Arnhem is being investigated.

In the town of Duiven, near the German border, another package was removed and sent for examination, the Associated Press news agency reported.

'No terror connection'

A spokesperson for Ikea said that the company had received a letter warning of bomb attacks on the stores, adding that the threat was limited to the Netherlands.

Sniffer dog brought in Duiven
Ikea said there may be bombs in other outlets

Police have said they do not believe there is any terrorist connection to the attacks.

The Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, also cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

"We must not create an image that terrorism has suddenly struck in the Netherlands," he said.

All Ikea stores in the country have been closed, and the police have also closed sections of motorways nearby because of the threat of more bombs, creating huge traffic jams during rush hour.

The head office of the Dutch news agency ANP near The Hague was also evacuated on Wednesday, after police warned that a bomb might have been planted in the building.

However ANP later said that no suspect packages had been found, Reuters news agency reported.

Staff informed

Ikea issued a statement saying there were strong indications that there might be more explosives in other outlets.

Map showing bomb locations

"We don't want to take any risks. We are taking this very seriously," said Ikea spokeswoman Helen van Trearum.

The Swedish-based company is one of the world's largest furniture retailers, with stores in more than 30 countries.

No shop closures are planned outside the Netherlands, but staff have been informed of the bomb scare.

On alert

Ikea UK issued a press statement saying that staff had been asked to stay vigilant.

"Customers will be told the threat is specific to Holland and that at present there is no need to be concerned," the statement said.

This is thought to be the first time a chain of stores in a particular country has been targeted.

But there have been several bomb attacks directed at multinational firms over the last few years - many targeting McDonald's fast food restaurants.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"This wasn't the work of a terrorist group"
Johanna Soutendijk, Ikea spokesperson
"The security of our co-workers and our customers is the priority"
See also:

17 Nov 02 | Business
10 Jul 02 | Business
28 Jul 00 | Europe
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