AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Europe's fourth-largest airport was brought to a standstill Thursday after a powerful explosion destroyed a restroom toilet, injuring three people and setting nearby shops on fire, police said.

Investigators couldn't say what caused the blast at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Dutch media, however, blamed the explosion on youths from the Maluku islands in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony.

``It was like a bomb,'' an eyewitness told Dutch television. ``There were two explosions ... a huge smoke cloud and later everyone panicked.''

Flames and smoke from a burning dry cleaners and fast-food restaurant inside the airport set off smoke alarms, and confused passengers were sent outdoors into the snow and freezing cold. Dozens of emergency vehicles raced past backed-up freeway traffic, and airport exits were closed off.

Fires described as short and fierce were quickly extinguished, but all road and train traffic to the airport remained halted for around two hours. Airport officials escorted thousands of passengers to nearby hotels, emptying restaurants, train platforms, arrival and departure terminals and a shopping mall.

One customs officer and a passenger suffered mild respiratory problems, airport police spokesman Ben Smit said. Another officer was hit by falling debris from a ceiling damaged by the blast.

Police declined to comment on the media reports blaming the blast on youths from the Malukus, an Indonesian province where Christian extremists are fighting for independence.

Indonesia was a Dutch colony until the region gained independence in 1949, and there are about 40,000 Malukus living in the Netherlands. Last year, a small radical youth movement within that community threatened to carry out attacks protesting what it said was the Dutch government's failure to help stop violence in Indonesia.

The airport, which reported record traffic of 40 million passengers in 2000, was to be closed Thursday night for cleaning and police investigations, an airport statement said.