A tense, anxious vigil has fallen over this remote province in northern Holland where two teams of south Moluccan gunmen have held some 50 train passengers and more than 100 school children captive since yesterday morning.
Early today, the half dozen terrorists who seized the primary school in the nearby hamlet of Bovensmilde demanded a Boeing 747 to fly both guerrilla squads and 21 imprisoned comrades out of the country. They warned that they would start killing their hostages unless their demands were met by 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, election day here.
"There will be many deaths," a letter from the gunmen said. Later, the seven gunmen on the train handed over a note with similar demands but making no mention of the deadline.
The Dutch government replied that the safety of the hostages must be assured as a prerequisite to any bargaining. "We will not talk about any demands until all the children are liberated," said justice Minister Andreas van Agt.
Prime Minister Jup Den Uyl said that "No hostages will leave the country."
Hundreds of troops, backed by tanks, sealed off access to the besieged school by erecting iron barriers in the harrow, tree-lined roads.
"It makes no sense," remarked and anguished Dutchman, waving to the curtained classrooms a half mile away. "We know they want their own country, but why make our children suffer over their lost dream?"
South Moluccan youths here feel betrayed by barreen promises of independence for their homeland, a few scattered islands on the southern tip of Indonesia. Their demands underlie the current episode as well as a similar dual attack on a train near Beilen and the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam 18 months ago. Four persons died in those incidents.
The 21 imprisoned Molaccans whose freedom is being demanded were involved in those attacks and in a plot against Queen Julians.
Some 40,000 South Moluccans have been living in the Netherlands since their homeland became part of Indonesia in 1949 with the pullout of the Dutch colonial armies.
Most of the children's parents have secluded themselves in the local library, where psychiatrists, social workers and government officials have tried to calm them.
"There are some angry threats of revenge," said Irene Vorrink, minister of public health who arrived from the Hague today to try to comfort the parents. "We are trying to help them overcome their anxiety and make them understand they have to live together after this horrible event."
Many South Moluccans travelling in the cordoned area that surrounds the school are searched for weapons before being allowed to go to their homes.
They live in rigid isolation, ironically separated from the Dutch and Indonesian neighborhoods by the flat, modern school building occupied by the terrorists. Their diffidence in mixing with other townspeople has long fostered deep mutual suspicion.
"We don't have racial troubles in this region," said a local grocer. "We only have a Moluccan problem."
The gunmen kept a quiet watch today, except for two short bursts of warning shots, one when an elderly woman wearing a white smock wandered past the police guards and strayed close to the school.
The troops were soon alerted that the woman was not a nurse, as they presumed, but a patient from a nearby mental asylum.
Two police volunteers then stripped to their shorts and rescued her with the tacit compliance of the terrorists.
The earlier burst of gunfire was unexplained, and caused the children to start crying, although there were no injuries reported.
The gunmen on the train loosed a burst of gunfire at a police helicopter circling overhead, but it was not hit.
Deliveries of food were made to both sites and folding cots were taken to the school for thechildren.