Emerson Vermaat : Jason Walters - From Muslim convert to Jihadist
December 20, 2005
Jason Walters – from Muslim convert to Jihadist
The "Hofstadgroup" is a radical Islamic network in the Netherlands. Forteen members of the Hofstad group (Hofstadgroep in Dutch), are currently on trial in Amsterdam. Not on trial in Amsterdam is Samir Azzouz, an important member of the Hofstadgroep His trial took place earlier this year and dealt with separate charges. Part one of our series on the Hofstadgroep dealt Samir Azzouz (published on November 23, 2005). This article deals primarily with Jason Walters, a Muslim convert in the Netherlands whose American father Carl Walters served on a US Airforce base overseas.
‘We'll go to paradise and you'll go to hell,' Jason Walters shouted after a failed attempt by the police to enter his apartment in the Dutch city of The Hague on November 10, 2004. ‘This is the day when we'll become shahids (martyrs),' he said. In addition to Jason Walters his friend Ismail Akhnikh was also lashing out at the police.
Jason Walters is one of the most radical members of the so-called "Hofstadgroup," a network of young Muslim radicals in the Netherlands who strongly sympathize with Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. But they are not linked to Al-Qaeda. (Compared to Al-Qaeda these "polder mujahedeen" – as they call themselves – are amateurs.) Fourteen members of the Hofstadgroep are currently on trial in Amsterdam. A leading member of the Hofstadgroep was Mohammed Bouyeri – the same man who on November 2, 2004, killed Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh.
Jason's father Carl Walters was born in Brooklyn, New York. Carl's own mother did not want him and he was raised in a foster home. Young Carl wanted to see the world and joined the US Airforce as a medical orderly (hospik in Dutch). He was stationed at the US Airforce base in Soesterberg, the Netherlands. He very much liked the atmosphere of tolerance and freedom Holland, he told the Dutch television program KRO Profiel. In this country. he said, there were no signs of racial discrimination. Carl felt there was still a bias against black Americans in America. In the early eighties he married a Dutch woman named Ingrid. The couple lived in an apartment in the city of Amersfoort, just a ten minutes drive from Soesterberg. Carl and Ingrid had two sons, Jason and Jermaine, and one daughter. Jason Theodore James Walters was born in Amersfoort on 6 March 1985, Jermaine Emmanuel Walters was born Amersfoort on 20 January 1987. Carl took his sons to a local Baptist church. They liked gospel music. Carl's favorate song was: ‘O Victory, O Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever.' So, the kids were raised as Christians. This was the happiest time in his life, Carl told KRO Profiel. He had a family, a job and a home. But in 1997 the couple broke up after Carl started to drink and lost his job. The traumatic experiences of his own boyhood haunted him. After the divorce, Carl moved to an apartment in the city of Veenendaal, Ingrid and the children continued to live in Amersfoort. Deeply depressed, Carl sought for new meaning in his life. He met Muslims who took him to their mosque. He became a Muslim himself and he soon he convinced his sons to become Muslims, too. They enjoyed studying the Koran. And in the school of Amersfoort there were Muslim pupils who also tried to convert non-Muslim pupils. In his high school years in "het Hooghe Landt College" in Amersfoort, Jason was still proud of his father. Initially, he was known for his pro-American views. But after the 9/11 attacks in America, his attitude began to change and in his final year in school he began to study websites on the jihad. He was also anxious to study Arabic.
Jason's influence over his younger brother Jermaine was strong. It was Jason who began to radicalize first. He was upset by the treatment of Muslims in Chechnya and Palestine. It was all part of an evolutionary process: from a young Christian boy enjoying gospel songs evolving into a moderate Muslim convert and eventually turning into a fanatical jihahist. At home Jason unsuccessfully tried to convert his mother and sister to Islam, he wanted them to be dressed in accordance with the strict Islamic clothing rules. This was met with stiff resistance Jason's father did not share his son's radical beliefs and was shocked when he learned that he had been arrested on terrorism charges on November 10, 2005.
Jason and Jermaine first went to the El Fath Mosque in Amersfoort which adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam. Jason changed his name into "Jamal" and Jermaine called himself "Nordin." But when "Jamal" tried to recruit other visitors of the mosque to more radical causes and began to talk about the training for jihad (holy war), the mosque's leadership decided to throw the two brothers out. By this time, Jermaine had radicalized, too. The Fath Mosque was not the place for harboring extremist views about the killing of infildels. The mosque also told local authorities that there were reasons to be worried about Jason and Jermaine.
Terrorist training in Pakistan ("Six Flags")
Early 2003, two high school pupils in Amsterdam took the train to the Ukraine and Russia. It was in the heart of Winter and bitterly cold there. One of them was a Dutch Moroccan named Samir Azzouz. Like Mohammed Bouyeri, he was from a problematic immigrant neighborhood in Amsterdam-West. Samir and his friend Khaled wanted to join the jihad in Chechnya. They were stopped in the Ukraine and then sent back to Holland. Their failed trip received wide publicity. In Amersfoort, Jason Walters also heard about the story. He strongly admired the young Azzouz for his courage and contacted him through the internet. They became close friends. By this time a group of young Muslim radicals began to meet regularly at the house of Mohammed Bouyeri in Amsterdam as well as in an internet phone center in Schiedam (near Rotterdam). This group would later be known as the "Hofstadgroep." Jason Walters introduced Samir Azzouz into his new circle of friends. They began to conspire together. There was an interesting chat on the internet between Jason and Samir on September 8, 2003:
Jason: "I know a couple of boys who want to go to Ajax" (local soccer team in Amsterdam).
Samir: "Is it with a view to playing a game (match) and training or training only."
Samir" ‘Did you tell them about six flags?"
Jason: "Only about the standard attractions, not about the rest."
Samir: "Do they have good shoes?"
"Ajax" and "training" are code words for terrorist training, "playing a game" means a terrorist attack, ‘six flags" refers to Pakistan. For training in a country like that you need good shoes. Jason, only nineteen years old, had just returned from a one month trip to Pakistan where he had visited a terrorist training camp. One of his best friends from the Hofstadgroep, a fanatical young Dutch Moroccan named Ismail Akhnikh, was also in Pakistan, but he stayed there only for one week. Just before he left for Pakistan Jason wrote a farewell letter to his mother. Calling himself "Abu Mujahid Amriki" he wrote that had gone "to the land of the jihad to chase away the infidels and to assist in establishing the Islamic state." The real Muslims "are the Taliban and all those who seek Islamic rule by sharia law." He then stated his eagerness to die as a martyr for the Muslim cause:
"As a Muslim I cannot sit by and watch what happens to the Muslims. Do not grieve. This life is only temporary and the afterlife is eternal. In his Holy Koran God promised that those who who die for his cause shall be rewarded greatly. That is to say, those who die will be martyrs."
In internet chats Jason proudly mentioned his "basic training" in Pakistan. There, they instructed him how to handle Kalashnikovs, Seminovs, Zakayevs, TT Pistols and Makarovs and how to throw a hand grenade. "I even can do a summersault having a pistol in my hand and then shoot." He claimed to have met people who belonged to the Taliban. He had nothing but praise for these people. ("Their character is just perfect.") In an internet chat (on 9 September 2003) with "El Amir" Jason wrote:
"Maybe you know the emir, his name is Maulana Masood Azhar."
This is highly interesting. It shows that Jason Walters was probably in touch with "Jaish-e-Mohammed" (JEM), a Kashmiri terrorist network founded and led by Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar, a Pakistani citizen, was arrested in India in 1994 because of separatist activities in the Indian part of Kashmir. The Indian government was forced to release him in December 1999 after his friends had hijacked an Indian Airlines plane and demanded his release in exchange for 155 hostages. Early 2000, he founded Jaish-e-Mohammed. The aim of the new movement is to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. Until November 2001, JEM maintained training camps in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. They had close ties to the Afghan Arabs and the Taliban and and were probably funded by Osama bin Laden. JEM, therefore, is closely linked to Al-Qaeda and they seem to follow Al-Qaeda's instructions. In December 2003, Jaish-e-Mohammed was involved in a failed attempt to assassinate Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. The orders to target Musharraf were given by Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a high ranking Al-Qaeda operative and a confidante of Osama bin Laden. Al-Libbi was arrested in Pakistan and expelled to the United States in May 2005.
Jaish-e-Mohammed and other Kashmiri groups have their own recruiting networks in Europe, especially in Britain. Two of the London 7/7 suicide bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, were also in touch with Jaish-e-Mohammed as they paid a lengthy visit to Pakistan between November 2004 and February 2005. Both were seen in a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. This camp was, in fact, operating under the guise of a madrassa (koranic school).
Questioned by the Dutch court judge on December 12, 2005, Jason Walters claimed he had only been to mosques and madrassas near Islamabad. His internet chats about a training camp were not meant to be serious. He claimed he had been boasting to impress others ("Stoerdoenerij" in Dutch). Such argumentation reminds one of what the Germans call Schönfärberei (glossing over the facts). It is most likely that Jason Walters went to a camp similar to the one which Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer would visit one year later, that is a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp dressed up as a madrassa and located in a forest north of Islamabad. Although Jaish-e-Mohammed is prohibited in Pakistan, there is no doubt that the movement is operating under cover, there are secret and hidden camps or camps disguised as madrassas.
In internet chats with internet chat partner Aicha (date: 14 September 2003) Jason refers to Maulana Masood Azhar as the "emir (amir) of the Pakistani mujahideen, after Bin Laden and Mullah Omar the leader most wanted"(by the authorities).
"I could have met him, unfortunately I was not successful this time, maybe next time. Inshallah."
In December 2003 Jason Walters made another trip to Pakistan, this time in the company of Zacaria Taybi (born in Amsterdam in 1984, Moroccan parents). In addition to being a trusted friend of Mohammed Bouyeri, Taybi was also a prominent member of the Hofstadgroup. This time agents from the Pakistani intelligence service were following the two extremists from Holland. The Pakistani had received information from the Dutch Security and Intelligence Service (AIVD) who had reason to believe that Jason Walters was touch with international terrorists. This second trip only lasted ten days. Jason Walters probably noticed that he was under surveillance and did not want to endanger his contacts in Pakistan. Between September and December 2003 Walters tried to recruit other young people for jihadist trips to Pakistan. He was asssisted by Samir Azzouz although the latter was not always satisfied with the poor quality of some of the potential recruits. Jason Walters recruited Mohammed el Morabit (born in Al-Hoceima, Morocco, in 1981) into the Hofstadgroup but he failed to convince him to join him on a trip to Pakistan. El Morabit hoped to find a wife and get married, but Jason told him: "No, you are going there to become a shahid (martyr)" (internet chats on 24 September 2003). After El Morabit suddenly was no longer interested in going to Pakistan. He did not yet belong to the inner circle of the Hofstadgroup. Jason was more successful in convincing Zacaria Taybi, a hard-core member of the group.
Jason sympathized with the ideas of Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven, another Dutch convert to Islam and regarded by radical Muslims as a teacher. In internet chats Jason quoted van de Ven as saying "the blood and possessions of this government are ‘halal' (= clean) for us." This means you are allowed to kill and rob government officials, the police, etc. Van de Ven denied he had ever said this arguing that Islamic punishments can only be inflicted if there is an Islamic state.
On October 17, 2003, the following members of the Hofstadgroep were arrested by the Dutch police: Jason Walters, Samir Azzouz, Ismail Akhnikh, Mohammed Fahmi Boughaba (a close friend of Mohammed Bouyeri) and Bassem (Redouan) Al-Issa (the spirital leader of the Hofstadgroep). According to a report ("Ambtsbericht") from the Dutch Security and Intelligence Service (AIVD), these five people were planning a terrorist attack. Samir Azzouz and Ismail Akhnikh had traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to meet a Moroccan man named Abdelhamid Akoudad, also known as Nadufel or Naoufel. According to Moroccan police investigations Akoudad played a keyrole in the terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003. He was probably planning to go to the Netherlands where would feel safer. Akoudad was arrested in Spain on October 15, 2003 – about one week after his meeting with Samir Azzouz and Ismail Akhnikh. Shortly before his arrest there was a telephone conversation between Akoudad and Samir Azzouz. Akoudad wanted Samir to arrange a passport (code word: "notebook") for him. Akoudad was then told that Ismail Akhnikh had visited a camp in Pakistan, but that "the emir" of the camp had sent him back "to play a game." Again, a code word for a terrorist attack. The AIVD was especially worried because they knew that both Ismail Akhnikh and Jason Walters – two prominent members of the Hofstadgroep – had been to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. The AIVD advised the Dutch Public Prosecutor to make the necessary arrests in order to disrupt any plans for a terrorist attack. However, after twelve days the five arrested Hofstadgroup members were released. There was plenty of intelligence that somebody was up to something evil but obviously there was not enough evidence to pursue the matter in court. After Akoudads arrest the Spanish police found his planner and discovered that he had written down the names of "Abu Abdullah" (according to the Spanish press this name refers to "J.J.W." or Jason James Walters) and Nadir Adarraf, another member of the Hofstadsgroep.
Those who were arrested on October 17 were very dangerous people and their release was not a very wise decision, although it was based formal legal reasons. (In France this would never have happened.) From a security point of view the decision to release the five suspected terrorists was fatal. Samir Azzouz, Jason Walters and Ismail Akhnikh planned new terrorist attacks whereas Redouan Al-Issa was probably the one who – by issuing a so-called "fatwa" – authorized Mohammed Bouyeri to kill Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004.
Praising Mohammed Bouyeri
In September 2004, Jason Walters moved to a new address in the city of The Hague. The AIVD had installed hidden microphones in his spacious apartment in the Antheunisstraat. A few weeks later his friend Ismail Akhnikh also moved to the Antheunisstraat. They received frequent visits from Jason's friend Zacaria Taybi – the same Hofstadgroup member who had joined Jason on his second trip to Pakistan at the end of 2003. Taybi was very close to Mohammed Bouyeri. The killing of Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004 was a frequent topic of discussion in the Antheunisstraat and these conversations were monitored by the AIVD. Walters called Bouyeri "a real man." Akhnikh added: "He is a hero now." (sound of laughing). Walters continued: "He (Bouyeri) was fully committted to become a martyr." "Yes brother, you are right, he wanted to become a martyr, the clothes he was wearing were clean." Walters said:
"I did not know about it, I heard about it later... Look what happened in Amsterdam. Then I saw the mayor of Amsterdam. Wow! It has already happened. Van Gogh has been killed. Allahu Akhbar, I swear by Allah, when I saw this kind of work, I immediately thought it was Bouyeri."
In court Jason Walters said: "This can't be true. Maybe it was slip of the tongue. It was based on what I saw on television."
On November 8, 2004 Akhnikh read out an announcement from the so-called "Islamic Jihad Brigades" in full endorsement of the killing of van Gogh. The author of this document was no one else but Akhnikh himself:
"The Islam Brigades, the Brigades of Islamic Jihad in the Netherlands issue the following statement: "Yes, we did slaughter a lam (animal) according to the true Islamic tradition. This will be also be the punishment for everyone in this country who insult and challenge Allah and his messenger. Tomorrow, it is your turn Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Inshallah."
Jason Walters added: "We will persecute you, you the enemy of Allah!" In court the judge asked Walters for an explanation (December 9, 2005). "It was something that Akhnikh was reciting in Arab," Walters said. "I didn't follow everything," he said (he claimed he had a poor knowlegde of Arabic). "But he (Akhnikh) was just kidding, I would say." Just kidding... Nobody in the court room – except Walters' lawyer, of course – believed it.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a member of parliament for the Liberal Party (VVD) who together with Theo van Gogh made the film Submission (on the suppression of women in Islamic cultures). Mohammed Bouyeri was so upset by this film that he decided to kill Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a renegate Muslim (she is an atheist now). But then he discovered that she was well protected and therefore not as easy a target as Theo van Gogh who did not have body guards and used to go on bicycle to the film studio where he worked as a film director.
An interesting topic discussed in the Antheunisstraat was a document on "The Obligation to kill everyone who insults the prophet." The original author of this document is Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th century Islamic scholar. Bouyeri translated it into Dutch and it was later discovered in the computers of all Hofstadgroup members (known in Dutch as "De Verplichting"). Another topic were Bouyeri's "Open Letters" to Hirsi Ali and other prominent policians. The "Open Letter" to Hirsi Ali was knifed by Bouyeri to van Gogh's lifeless body. It said that she would be the next victim:
"This letter is an attempt silence your evil (voice) once and for all. Mrs. Hirsi Ali: If you are really convinced that you are right, you'd better wish you were dead."
The letter refers to "many Jews" who are in control of Dutch politics (a reference to Job Cohen, the "Jewish" mayor of Amsterdam). It also announced that America, Europe, the Netherlands and Hirsi Ali will perish. There will be no mercy, "DEATH (capital letters) will separate Truth from Lies."
In the Antheunisstraat Walters and Akhnikh discussed a plan to publish Bouyeri's "Open Letters" and other documents related to him in book form and sell these books on the market. Questioned in court by prosecutor J. Plooy on December 12, 2005, about Bouyeri's Open Letter to Hirsi Ali, Jason Walters said that this letter did not at all pose a threat. "To me the letter was politically correct compared to what you can find on the internet." Prosecutor Plooy said: "Can you imagine that Hirsi Ali herself felt threatenend by it? She said the threat to her was substantial." Another target of the Hofstadgroup is Geert Wilders, a Dutch member of parliament who has been very critical of the role of Islam in Dutch society. Wilders received numerous death threats. In the Antheunisstraat Walters and Akhknikh discussed the proper way of getting rid of Wilders:
"We will rejoice greatly when the sharia can be introduced by throwing and smashing Wilders from the Euromast (a high tower in Rotterdam). We'll then baptize the Euromast in Wilders' blood and transform it into a building where such criminals can be executed."
Walters was laughing when these threats were made. Challenged by the judge in court on December 9, 2005, Walters said: "In my view it was funny." Is that so?
Moreover, a "Letter to Bouyeri" was also found in Jason's computer saying "You must know that we Muslims love death more than you love life." The infildels and rulers were referred to as "Roman dogs."
Death is a recurrent theme in the Hofstadgroep. "Death is the central theme of everything that is existing," Walters said. "We are marching under the black banner," and: "We"ll show that we love death more than they love life." Martyrdom and suicide are seen the best way to paradise.
After Bouyeri's arrest on November 2, 2004, other members of the Hofstadgroup were also arrested. Ismail Akhnikh and Jason Walters realized that they could be arrested any moment, yet it would take one week before the police arrived in the Antheunisstraat. On the night of November 9, 2004, the polic tried to enter the apartment by force, then Jason Walters appeared and suddenly he threw a grenade at them wounding four policemen. (Later, the police found three more grenades – all of them made in Croatia.) "I never felt so happy," Walters told Akhnikh after he had stopped the police from entering the apartment. "They've gone, the kufar (infidels), they are queers really, Praise be to Allah!" Akhnikh said. "We are going to decapitate you,' Walters told the police. "You'll go to hell, we'll go to heaven. We'll go to paradise." Walters and Akhnikh expressed the wish that they wanted to die as martyrs. Akhnikh: "I've waited for twenty years to become a martyr!" More than once, Walters and Akhnikh challenged the police to shoot them dead. A policeman heard Jason Walters say: "You may call me Black Death!" "We are going to blow up the building. We have 20 kilos of explosives!" This was not true, but Jason was aware of what happened in Leganes, Spain in April 2004. There, terrorists under siege by anti-terrorist units blew up their whole apartment.
Later in court, Jason explained everything away by arguing that he had overreacted. It was all due to extreme pressure and tension. It had not been his intention to kill or wound policemen. He said: "The fact that I was happy about the killing of Theo van Gogh does not mean that I condoned it." But he also said: "I was very happy when Theo van Gogh was killed. He had insulted Islam. Everybody was happy. I went to several mosques and noted that everybody was happy." Killing somebody, Walters argued, is only permitted in an Islamic State or when your country is under foreign occupation – like in Iraq or Chechniya. In Holland it is not allowed to kill, Walters said. Walters must have read instructions on what to say after you have been arrested and how mislead courts controlled by the infidels (of course, he also received detailed instructions from his lawyer). In both the computers of Walters and Akhnikh a "Manual on the rules of conduct after you have been arrested by intelligence services" was discovered. After more than a twelve hourse siege Walters and Akhnikh finally surrendered.
Author's file on Jason Walters.
Rechtbank Rotterdam, Proces Hofstadgroep, de zaak Jason Walters, 9 en 12 december (Amsterdam-Osdorp). Notes by the author during the trial.
Emerson Vermaat, De Hofstadgroep. Portret van een radicaal-islamitisch netwerk (Soesterberg: Uitgeverij Aspekt, 2005), p. 85-100 (on Jason Walter's trips to Pakistan and Maulana Masood Azhar), p. 102 (‘six flags').
KRO Profiel (Dutch TV, Channel One), 7 September 2005. Interview with Carl Walters and Jermaine Walters.
El País, 12 November 2004 (Akoudad and "J.J.W.").
US Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 (Washington: April, 2005), p. 100, 101 (Jaish-e-Mohammed and Maulana Masood Azhar).
Emerson Vermaat, a law graduate and an investigative journalist, is specialized in war reporting, crime and terrorism and is author of a Dutch book on Al Qaeda ("De Dodelijke Planning van Al-Qaida,' Aspekt Publishers, Soesterberg, 2005) and the Hofstadgroup ("De Hofstadgroep: Een radicaal-islamitisch netwerk," Aspekt Publishers, the Netherlands, 2005). He is currently covering the Hofstadgroup trial. For more information on the author, see: emersonvermaat.com and: Who's Who in the World 2006, Marquis/Reed Elsevier). Researchers making use of the research material in this paper are requested to give credit to the author and the source of publication.
 In my book on the Hofstadgoup I assumed that Walters actually met Maulana Azhar. This could be infered from his internet chats on 9 September 2003. The text of his internet chats on 14 September 2003 ("I could have met him, but wasn't succesful...") was given to me after my book was published.