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"Stop the hatred," the sign readsImage: AP

Dutch Link to International Terrorism?

AFP (win)
November 12, 2004

As details of the investigation into the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh emerge, the alleged killer seems to have been part of a Dutch network of suspected Islamic terrorists with international connections.


Shortly after the Nov. 2 murder of van Gogh, police arrested Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, who is suspected of committing the murder because of his radical Islamic beliefs.

As details of the investigation into the slaying emerge it became clear that instead of being a lone actor, Bouyeri seems to have been a key figure in a suspected terror network, dubbed the Hofstad group by intelligence services.

Gewalt in der Niederlande Rettungswagen
Ambulances waiting near the Antheunisstraat in The Hague Wednesday where an unknown number of terrorism suspects holed up in a house in a standoff with police.Image: AP

The Dutch investigation revealed that Bouyeri, who has dual Moroccan and Dutch nationality, had links to another suspected extremist, Samir Azzouz.

Azzouz, 18, was arrested in June 2004 and provisionally charged with planning terror attacks in the Netherlands together with four other suspects also in custody.

Azzouz, in turn, had contacts with a Moroccan, Abdeladim Akoudad, held in Spain over last year's Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers.

Akoudad is believed to be a member of the radical Islamic group Salafia Jihadia and is currently in prison suspected of helping prepare terrorist attacks and fund-raising for terrorist groups.

Links to Spain?

Swiss and Spanish media also reported links between the Dutch group and Mohammed Achraf, an Algerian recently detained in Switzerland pending extradition to Spain. Madrid believes Achraf headed an Islamic cell accused of plotting to blow up symbolic buildings in the Spanish capital.

Bombenanschläge in Madrid
A banner reading "the dead" on a wall next to a bombed train at Madrid's Atocha railway station on March 12, one day after a terrorist attack that killed 190 people.Image: AP

The Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported that, based on classified Spanish intelligence service wiretap reports, Achraf and Bouyeri had "direct contact" in September.

In the Netherlands a storm of criticism erupted in the last few days as it became clear that intelligence services were monitoring Bouyeri as part of the entourage of the Hofstad group and Azzouz but considered him only a minor figure.

"The information about B. (Bouyeri) that the intelligence services received did not alter the image they had of him that he was not a key figure in the networkm," the Dutch interior and justice ministry said in a joint letter to parliament late Wednesday. "Up until the attack on van Gogh the intelligence services had no information that indicated that B. was preparing a violent action."

Minister under attack

Dutch Interior Minister Johan Remkes barely survived a parliamentary debate about van Gogh's murder late Thursday.

In the end most members of parliament felt there was no need for the minister to step down but he was heavily criticized over the failure of Dutch intelligence to pinpoint Bouyeri as a key figure.

After Bouyeri's arrest the Dutch police cracked down on other suspected Islamic extremists.

Arrests continue

Six people, including Bouyeri, have been arrested in connection with the filmmaker's murder and provisionally charged with belonging to a "terrorist conspiracy."

On Wednesday the police arrested another seven suspected extremists. Initially they said they were not directly linked to van Gogh's murder but were suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization because they were allegedly members of the Hofstad group. In The Hague two of the suspects were captured after a 14-hour police siege.

But Friday Dutch police said one of the men seized Wednesday, a 23-year-old detained in Amsterdam, was involved in the van Gogh conspiracy.

"One of the seven people arrested Wednesday has now been charged in connection with the Theo van Gogh enquiry" on the same charges as the six held in the earlier sweep, the police said.

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