Up to 150 Glock pistols have been stolen from the high-security Gilze-Rijen airbase after thieves made a hole in the wall of the armoury.
The theft of between 100 to 150 service pistols took place over the weekend, but was not discovered until Monday morning, newspaper ‘Nederlands Dagblad’ reported on Tuesday. All vehicles belonging to airbase staff were inspected on Monday.
A military police spokesman confirmed that an inquiry had been launched into the theft of “military property”. Further details are expected to be released later on Tuesday.
Military personnel at the airbase in the south of the country suspect the thieves were familiar with the terrain
because they knew exactly where to drill a hole in the wall of the armoury without hitting scaffolding.
The stolen Glock 17 pistols are the standard service weapon for the army and military police. The Austrian-made weapon is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and is especially suited for close range combat.
“You can easily hide it under your jacket so it is also handy for criminals,” public order and safety inspectorate (IOOV) boss Henry Kuipers said. Kuipers is involved in investigating the management and administration of police weapons.
The theft of the Glocks is one of the biggest such crimes in Dutch history. Earlier reports of vanished service weapons generally involved only a few guns at a time.
An estimated 300 Ingram MAC 11 machine pistols were stolen at the end of 1990s from the US Nato base at Coevordon in the north-east of the Netherlands.
This robbery was never confirmed by US authorities, but the weapons ended up in the hands of the Dutch underworld and IRA.
In the 1970s, Uzi machine guns stolen from the Dutch military were used by Molucccan militants in a series of bloody train hijackings. The militants were fighting against injustice suffered at the hands of the colonial Dutch after Indonesia became independent.
Meanwhile, a weapon smuggling expert at Tilburg University, Toine Spapens, said the robbery at Gilze-Rijen was “considerable” and predicted that the weapons would end up in the underworld, but not necessarily in the Netherlands.