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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Recent arrests in Holland highlight presence of terrorists ready to strike

Recent arrests in Holland highlight presence of terrorists ready to strike

October 17, 2005

MIM: The recent arrests of terror suspects in Holland has been a reflection of the Dutch failure to stage an effective crackdown a year ago, due to legal constraints which allowed for the release of the main suspect twice in the past two years.

Suspected Hofstadgroep leader Samir Azzouz was aquitted in 2003, after bombmaking material found in his house was deemed to be the wrong chemical to make a bomb - prompting the judge to rule that he could not be tried for having explosives. He was rearrested as a suspect in an armed robbery and also ended up being released.

Other members of the Hofstadgroep had been under surveillance but could not be taken into custody.

It is clear that the Dutch have to enact drastic anti terrorism laws in order to deal with the threat, which caused the shut down of the Parliament last week. Even though an attack was prevented the siege like situation of the Dutch government was a pyschological victory for the terrorists and sent a message that they could have an impact without even detonating a bomb.

Dutch terrorism expert Emerson Vermaat who has just published a book called "The Hofstadgroep" describes them as " amateurish but dangerous". He says a bigger danger is posed by the presence of groups in Holland which are quiet and operating under the radar. For more on Emerson Vermaat and his analysis of the Hofstadgroep see: http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/1163


Dutch Police Arrest Seven in Terror Probe

Police officers guarded the Dutch parliament buildings on Friday Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Police officers guarded the Dutch parliament buildings on Friday http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,5830,1741692,00.html

Dutch police arrested seven new suspected members of the Hofstad group terrorist cell Friday and eliminated "an acute threat" to several politicians and the intelligence services, the interior minister said.

The arrests led to heightened security measures in the Netherlands around government buildings in central The Hague, which were sealed off by police, and the AIVD intelligence service headquarters.

Interior Minister Johan Remkes told a press conference that the seven suspects were members of the Hofstad group. Thirteen people are already in custody awaiting trial on charges of belonging to the group, including the convicted murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

"The intelligence services have established that despite earlier arrests this network has continued its activities. The group has grown in size in the last year and does not only consist of young men but also of young women," Remkes said.

Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said the Muslim community in the Netherlands should not be blamed for the suspects' activities and appealed for calm.

"Everything points to the fact that the suspects acted and wanted to act based on an extreme religious ideology. I want to stress that this is a handful of people who, in my opinion, abuse

the Islamic faith to justify their actions," he said.

Gathering weapons

The suspects, six men and a woman, were arrested in The Hague, Amsterdam and nearby Almere, the national prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The main suspect according to the authorities is 19-year-old Samir Azzouz, who was acquitted of charges of planning terrorist attacks because of insufficient evidence in April.

"Information of the AIVD intelligence service showed (Azzouz) was trying to get automatic firearms and explosives," the prosecutor's office said.

"He is suspected of preparing attacks, together with other persons, on several politicians and government buildings."

Police detained seven suspects Friday in an anti-terrorism operation in three Dutch cities

A second suspect arrested Friday was Jermaine Walters, his lawyer told Dutch national public Radio 1. Walters had also been arrested in the first Hofstad group case but was released later

after prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to hold him.

His older brother Jason Walters, like Jermaine a recent convert to Islam, is suspected of constituting the core of the Hofstad group together with Mohammed Bouyeri, Van Gogh's murderer. He is still in custody awaiting the first Hofstad group trial set to start December 5.

During one of the arrests in The Hague, witnesses reported hearing gunshots but the NOS national public television reported that the police had fired flares to create confusion which would explain the noises heard.

Monday court date

The suspects arrested Friday, including Azzouz, were to appear in court Monday in Rotterdam for a procedural hearing to see if they can be remanded in custody.

With the exception of Azzouz, the national prosecutor's office declined to identify the other suspects other than to say the men were between 18 and 30 years old and the woman was 24.

Still from TV of Mohammed BouyeriBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Still from TV of Mohammed BouyeriIn a related development Friday, a court ruled that Van Gogh's murderer Mohammed Bouyeri (photo) can be tried a second time on terrorism charges despite the fact that he is already serving the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The murder of the outspoken Van Gogh, who sharply criticized Islam, on November 2 2004, profoundly shocked the Netherlands and caused a flare-up of ethnic tensions in the usually easy-going country. Many Dutch saw the brutal murder as a sign that Islamic extremism was spreading in their country.

DW staff / AFP


MIM: This article is from 2004 and details the situation in Holland in the aftermath of the Van Gogh murder.


Extremist Threats Put Netherlands in Turmoil

By Sebastian Rotella, Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2004

AMSTERDAM — Geert Wilders is on the run.

He can't go home. He doesn't show his face in public. Six police officers track his every step.

Wilders is not a fugitive, but a prominent Dutch legislator. The threat of assassination by Islamic extremists has forced him and several other politicians into hiding, while about 150 men identified by police as hard-core militants remain free.

"I have stayed in five different safe houses," Wilders said in a recent interview. "It's a life you don't wish on your worst enemy. Meanwhile, they are still walking the streets of the Netherlands because the police can't arrest them — there is not enough evidence. I say that those who choose to kill our democracy with radical, fascistic Islamic ideas don't deserve the rights of our democracy. Once again we will have to wait until something else terrible happens before we do anything."

The Nov. 2 killing of director Theo van Gogh, whose latest film had denounced mistreatment of women in Muslim communities, set off a wave of arson attacks against mosques and churches. Police rounded up an accused terrorist cell whose youthful members trained in Pakistan and planned to kill Dutch leaders, including Wilders and feminist legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the writer of Van Gogh's film.

In a society built on consensus, permissiveness and generous social policy, the turmoil has been "un-Dutch," in the words of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. And as Europe struggles with change driven by immigration, Islam and demographics, it's a hint of potential strife ahead.

The attack and its aftermath have fed a widespread sentiment that the Dutch have been too soft for too long. But Muslim advocates blame rising radicalism on reluctance to accept them — especially young men of Moroccan descent — as true Dutch citizens.

"It's amazing that these kinds of things escalated as they have," said Ayham Tonca, 40, a Turkish immigrant leader. "There is a great fear of Islam in Holland. But on the other side, the Muslim community is also afraid. You have two groups who are afraid and who don't speak to each other. And that's not good for the society."

Police in other countries worry about a spillover effect. The Van Gogh plotters allegedly had ties to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, an Al Qaeda-linked movement trying to unleash jihad in Europe while sending fighters to Iraq. The slaying connects to suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, last year; train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid in March; and a plot to attack Spain's anti- terrorist court that was foiled last month, investigators say.

The youth and ferocity of the Dutch-born suspects stunned this tranquil society. During a daylong standoff Nov. 10 that shut down a neighborhood in The Hague, Ismail Akhnikh and Jason Walters allegedly barricaded themselves in an apartment and hurled a grenade that wounded three police officers. A SWAT team captured them after shooting Walters in the shoulder.

Walters is 19. His brother Jermaine, who also was jailed, is 17. Born to an African American military man from South Carolina and his Dutch wife, they grew up here and converted to Islam. Jason Walters and Akhnikh trained to be terrorists last year at a secret camp in Pakistan, investigators say, positing that the existence of the camp shows that Islamic networks are recovering from the loss of Al Qaeda camps that drew thousands of recruits to Afghanistan.

The radicalized teenagers combine primitive fundamentalism with a kind of street-gang swagger that makes them especially volatile, investigators say.

"There's no age limit," an investigator said. "If they feel the need to go for jihad, they go. We know there are camps in Pakistan and people are going to them."

The raw recruits were allegedly molded into a cell by an experienced militant named Redouan Issar, 43, now a fugitive. Issar is a military veteran and a Syrian — like many clerics who have influenced the Moroccan network.

Police detained Issar, Jason Walters and two others in October 2003 after Spanish police found their names during a raid in Barcelona, Spain. Although one 18-year-old had bomb-making materials and the Spanish warned of a plot in the works, Dutch prosecutors released them for lack of evidence, Spanish investigators say.

This summer, the Dutch, for lack of evidence, also were unable to hold suspects from Issar's group who were suspected of plotting an attack on the European soccer championships in Portugal.

Police wiretaps in Europe have recorded terrorist suspects scoffing that the laws here are lax, according to investigators and court documents. Critics say Islamic networks grew here as other countries got tougher after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. Dutch anti-terrorist prosecutions, however, have foundered because judges threw out evidence collected by intelligence agents.

The government has been criticized for failing to anticipate the actions of Van Gogh's accused assassin, Mohammed Bouyeri, who became known to authorities about two years ago. The 26-year-old of Moroccan descent was born here, got good grades in school and even wrote an article in a community publication extolling interfaith brotherhood in 2002. But he allegedly slid into criminal and extremist circles.

Although the cell reportedly met frequently at Bouyeri's apartment, investigators did not add him to the 150 extremists under intense surveillance — a list that included many of his friends.

"They knew about the planning and radical meetings at his house," said Wilders, the lawmaker who has been threatened. "The intelligence service knew he was radicalizing very fast. He should have been on the list of the top 10."

Critics say the government has shied away from confronting Islamic fundamentalism, which collides with libertarian attitudes permitting gay marriage, prostitution and drug use. Dutch policy sees multiculturalism as the road to integrating the country's 1 million Muslims, in contrast to a sterner French model that presses immigrants to adopt the host culture.

Resentment seethes among aging Dutch patrons at the Cafe T-Span, a tavern with a wood-paneled bar decorated with posters of the Ajax soccer team. The bar has a view of the spot on Linnaeusstraat where the assassin rode up on a bike and shot Van Gogh as he cycled to the offices of his production company, then sliced his throat with a knife.

"I saw that guy lying there, the police all around," said a retired airport worker who would give only his first name, Carmine. "The terrorist shot him, stabbed him, cut his throat. Like an animal. Many people agreed with Van Gogh. There are too many mosques. There's too much crime."

Carmine, 66, is an immigrant himself; he arrived 30 years ago from Naples. He chased espresso with amaretto on a rainy Saturday afternoon and stared out at passing groups of Dutch Arab youths wearing a mix of hip-hop styles and traditional djellabas, or long gowns, with skullcaps.

"These Moroccans and Turks are ruining everything," he said. "The government gives them [$900 to $1,000] a month in unemployment. You see them in the cafes all day. Playing cards, plotting their plots against us. The police are scared of them."

Bouyeri left a knife in the body attached to a letter declaring that jihad would bring down Europe and America.

Like the Salman Rushdie case in Britain, the slaying cast an ominous shadow in a country with a tradition of pugnacious debate. Like Pim Fortuyn, a populist leader killed by an animal rights activist in 2002, Van Gogh, 47, cultivated an outrageous persona. The pudgy chain-smoker's diatribes against political correctness, immigration and Islam entertained some as much as they offended others.

Van Gogh and Fortuyn "both did anything to tease and irritate the establishment," said Maarten Van Rossem, a friend of the filmmaker and professor of history at the University of Utrecht. "It's a frank, rhetorical Dutch style. It's a tradition in polemics: You go over the top to try to amuse people. Theo said: 'I perform pyrotechnics. You shouldn't take everything I say too seriously.' "

But Van Gogh's coarse language — he routinely used an epithet suggesting that radical Muslims engage in bestiality — stirred outrage. He also had a gentler, thoughtful side reflected in his television series, "Najib and Julia," about a romance between a Dutch woman and a Moroccan man, Van Rossem said.

Spurred by the backlash, the government has proposed initiatives to beef up anti-terrorist laws, ban foreign imams and deport extremists. Wilders, who in September left a mainstream center-right party to form his own movement, says his Internet site has received 15,000 supportive e-mails and 200,000 hits — compared with 34,000 hits before the assassination. He intends to keep calling for tougher policies on immigration and Islamic fundamentalism.

"It's the end of democracy," he said, "if the answer to argument is bullets and knives."


MIM: This article profiles the life of Jason Walters, a convert to Islam. who grew up in Holland and had an African American father and a Dutch mother. Walters, is set to stand trial as a member of the Hofstadgroep. His brother Germaine recently converted to Islam.


From Quiet Teen to Terrorist Suspect
Son of African American Held After Dutch Raid Suspected Muslim Extremist Cells

By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 5, 2004

AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands -- Jason Walters was the consummate outsider, his neighbors recalled, the loner who never quite fit in, the one the other kids liked to bully at school. He was the son of a black American father and a Dutch woman, and had few friends. He was pro-American, they said, perhaps because of his father.

Suddenly last month, Walters, 19, was arrested after a violent hours-long standoff with police, in one of a series of raids on suspected Muslim terrorist cells following the Nov. 2 assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an alleged Muslim extremist.

According to police, Walters had his own plans to assassinate Dutch political figures he deemed anti-Muslim, and his hit list included two members of parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia, and Geert Wilders. Both, like van Gogh, had been outspoken critics of Islam in the Netherlands, particularly its treatment of women.

Police said Walters was a member of the Hofstad Network, a loosely knit local Muslim group influenced by al Qaeda whose members included Mohammed Bouyeri, a young Moroccan immigrant who was arrested in the van Gogh slaying.

When police tried to arrest Walters on Nov. 10 at an apartment in The Hague, the Dutch capital, he threw a hand grenade into the street, wounding three officers. And when police finally brought Walters, shirtless and blindfolded, from the apartment -- along with another suspect, Ismail Akhnikh -- residents of his old neighborhood back in Amersfoort said they were shocked that the quiet teenager they used to see on the streets had drifted down the path to anti-Western militancy.

About three years ago, Walters, then 16, visited a mosque and converted to Islam, people who know him said. Walters, who began calling himself Jamal, grew increasingly radical in his beliefs, railing so insistently against "nonbelievers" and talking so much about waging jihad, or holy war, that he and his younger brother, Jermaine, were banned from a mosque in this small industrial town.

"We said to them they were not welcome in the mosque, because they said some radical things," said a spokesman for the El Fath mosque, who spoke on condition of not being named. "We heard radical things from him about a year ago, so we contacted the authorities."

"I saw him many, many times in the evenings," said a 62-year-old retiree who lives on the same clean, narrow street of small two-story row houses where Jason and Jermaine Walters lived with their mother and two sisters. Jason Walters, this neighbor recalled, wore a long leather jacket and was cleanshaven, although his arrest pictures suggest he had begun growing a beard.

"He was afraid of the dog," the retiree said, pointing to Daisy, an elderly mixed breed stretched out in the driveway. "She liked Jason, but Jason didn't like her."

The neighbor and others recalled how Walters used to travel on a small, old moped, looking slightly out of fashion. "They bullied him about that at school," said the neighbor, who, like most people interviewed, spoke on condition they not be named.

The Walters family lived on de Graafdreef for nearly 10 years. The neighbors remembered Walters's American father, whom they called Carl, as a friendly man who worked at Soesterberg Air Force Base before it closed down. Carl Walters then went to work in a paint factory, neighbors said.

Carl Walters and his Dutch wife, Ingrid, divorced several years ago, the neighbors said, leaving her, the two boys and their two younger sisters in the small house. Ingrid Walters worked part time at a center for asylum seekers in Leusden, a village north of town, where she was remembered by her former boss as "a nice person -- well-spoken, polite, well-dressed."

Jason Walters's high school yearbook, from the Meridiaan secondary school in Amersfoort, shows his as the only black face in his class. He listed his hobbies as "football and internet" and wrote that "all the classes I went to were nice. The nicest part is to come -- when I get my degree." His ambition seemed simple enough: "Married with two children. And a nice job and a nice house."

After his conversion to Islam about 2 1/2 years ago, according to Dutch police and news reports, Walters at some point left the Netherlands and traveled to Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan.

Little is known about why he went or what he did. But in a long and rambling letter written to his mother and recently published on some Dutch media sites, Walters said, "I know, dear mother, this will be difficult for you. Don't be sad. This life is temporary and short. Now I have eternal life."

If Walters was growing increasingly estranged from his mother, his mother was apparently growing frightened of him. According to neighbors, sometime last summer she called the police to say she felt threatened by her sons, "probably because they were too radical at home," a neighbor said. "She was not allowed to watch TV; there was no drinking." She took her two daughters and fled to a women's shelter in Den Helder, in the far north of the Netherlands, leaving Jason and Jermaine behind in the house, perhaps with a man who had been living there. Neighbors described him as a Nigerian known as George.

In September, the Walters brothers moved out, 17-year-old Jermaine going to a nearby apartment and Jason to The Hague, ostensibly to pursue college studies nearby. Jason moved into 92 Antheunis St., and his presence would have gone largely unnoticed in the working-class district of immigrants, many of them living in illegal sublets.

The first the neighbors in The Hague knew of Jason Walters was the sound of an explosion in the streets at 3 a.m. Nov. 10.

"We heard all the car alarms going off, all the dogs barking, the people yelling," said one resident of the street.

When the siege was over, three policemen were injured and seven cars were damaged, three destroyed.

At the same time, Jermaine was arrested in Amersfoort, and offered no resistance.

Special correspondent Misja Pekel contributed to this report.

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