Two young children have been kidnapped from the Netherlands by their Chechen mother, who took them to Syria to join the "Islamic State." According to authorities, the woman has dodged an international arrest warrant.
The kidnapping is the first known case in the Netherlands where a parent has taken their children to join the militant group, prosecutors said Monday. The unnamed women in her early 30s, originally from the Russian province of Chechnya, fled the country with her 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, possibly using false passports.
The woman and her children had been living in the southern city of Maastricht, where they were last seen on October 29.
"She is most likely in Syria now. We are probing a kidnapping case," Elsbeth Kleibeuker, a spokeswoman for the public prosecution service, told the AFP news agency.
Woman likely received help
The children, both Dutch nationals, were photographed as their mother withdrew cash from an ATM in Istanbul in mid-December, the Dutch Limburger newspaper reported on Monday.
The woman posted a picture to Facebook on December 28, allegedly taken in Tell Abiad, a Turkish-Syrian border town controlled by "Islamic State" (IS) militants.
In early January, she called her mother in Maastricht and said she was in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, in northeastern Syria.
No further information was available concerning the woman's whereabouts.
Prosecutors suspect that she received help during her flight, an assumption reinforced by the fact that the woman managed to avoid an international arrest warrant.
'There is very little we can do'
The Dutch father of the two children, who is divorced from the mother, was alerted by the head of the children's Islamic school after the woman printed plane tickets to Greece for herself as well her children.
"The mother has taken the children against the wishes of her ex-husband, who has custody," said Bart den Hartigh, a spokesman for the public prosecution service.
However, neither the father nor the Dutch authorities were able to stop the woman from leaving the country.
"Unfortunately there's very little we can do [if they are] in Syria," den Hartigh told state broadcaster NOS.
A total of 180 Dutch citizens have left the Netherlands for Syria, according to the Dutch Justice Ministry. Twenty-one have been killed in the bloody civil war, and around 35 have since returned.
Their number included a young Muslim convert named "Aicha" who went to Syria to marry a fighter she saw as a Robin Hood figure. The girl was rescued by her mother, who traveled to Syria last year.
dj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)