updated 3/16/2009 11:10:28 AM ET 2009-03-16T15:10:28

The police chief in Amsterdam justified last week's terror alert by saying a tip phoned in by a Dutch-speaking woman gave credible information to suggest an impending bomb attack, according to an interview published Monday.

Bernard Welten — giving more details of the call that led police to lock down an Amsterdam shopping district Thursday — said the caller had given little-known details of the 2004 Madrid bombings, exactly five years earlier.

He said the woman's warning was linked to the 2004 Madrid attacks, and appeared so credible police had no option but to seal off the shopping district she identified as the target, according to the interview in Volkskrant daily.

The women claimed three men planned to arrive in a van near Ajax Amsterdam's ArenA football stadium to plant explosives in stores, the newspaper quoted Welten as saying.

"There was no doubt that this was a very serious tip," Welten was quoted as saying. "Doing nothing was not an option."

Police searches found no explosives, and seven people arrested were released for lack of evidence.

Welten said police are still looking for the three men and for the woman who delivered the warning.

He said the woman, who spoke Dutch with a French accent, called from Brussels on a prepaid cell phone and underwent close questioning for more than 10 minutes. She spelled the names and gave addresses of people she alleged were involved, including one who turned out to be a relative of an Islamic extremist involved in the Madrid attacks and who committed suicide a few weeks later.

Welten also defended the decision to disclose that all seven detained people were from Moroccan backgrounds, saying it was intended to forestall rumors. "By immediately putting all facts on the table you limit the damage to all involved as far as possible," he was quoted as saying.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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