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Former Dutch Hostage Oerlemans: "Jihadists from Africa, Asia and Europe Are Fighting In Syria"

August 7, 2012


Augues 7, 2012 - San Francisco, CA - - On July 19, Dutch press photographer Jeroen Oerlemans and his British colleague John Cantlie were taken hostage in Northwestern Syria by a group of twenty bearded jihadists, possibly from Al-Qaeda. Their Syrian guide Dahram had (deliberately?) taken a wrong turn. He had smuggled them from Turkey into Syria. The same guide had successfully smuggled John into Syria a few months earlier. On that occasion he and John had turned left, but now the smuggler suddenly turned right leading them straight into a jihadist camp where the two photographers from Europe and their guide were immediately taken hostage.

"All of them were foreign jihadists," Oerlemans told the Dutch press after he and Cantlie had been liberated by the so-called "Free Syrian Army." "Some of them spoke English with a British accent as if they were from Birmingham. There were also a number of Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Chechens." Oerlemans said that among the Pakistanis was a 12-year-old boy who spoke English quite well. The ‘military' use of children is common practice among violent Muslim jihadists and African warlords. One only wonders if the boy's Pakistani parents are aware of what their 12-year-old offspring is doing in Al-Qaeda's latest battleground – Syria.

For that's what those jihadists in Northwestern Syria claimed to be: holy warriors from Al-Qaeda.

They initially accused Oerlemans and Cantlie of being CIA agents. "When we were interrogated they said that they didn't believe we were journalists, the term CIA was mentioned repeatedly," Oerlemans told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. "One of the black (African) jihadists became hysterical and shouted: ‘They are journalists who now see how we are preparing an international jihad right on this spot.'"

There were religious sermons every day. They told their European hostages that they should prepare for death and that it would be better for them to die as Muslims than as infidels. They don't want Western democracy. Instead, they want to create an Islamic state in Syria and impose Sharia law on the whole population.

On the second day, the three hostages made an attempt to escape. The Syrian guide managed to reach nearby Turkey, but Oerlemans and Cantlie were caught again. Oerlemans was slightly wounded by gunshots. "Kaffir (=infidel), you are gonna die," he was told. Two of the jihadists wanted to stone him to death. "My life was saved by the same Pakistani boy who spoke English," Oerlemans later said. "He convinced the others that it is against Islam to kill a wounded man."

Five days later, on July 26, Oerlemans and Cantlie were liberated by four members of the Free Syrian Army. The man who smuggled them into Turkey later told the press that some of those jihadists had previously fought in Libya. "They threatened to kill Oerlemans and Cantlie after the Friday prayer. "Were given only water and dates to eat. Sometimes were handcuffed and allowed to sit to drink and eat."

After the departure of all US troops from Iraq, Al-Qaeda is making inroads there again. This has direct implications for the role of Al-Qaeda in neighboring Syria. It was not coincidental that in July, after a series of spectacular bomb attacks in Iraq, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) issued a statement praising the jihadists in Syria. "Our people there teach the world the principles of courage and holy war," he said.

Rania Abouzeid warned in Time: "Syria is becoming an attractive potential theater of
operations for independent would-be jihadists who want to come to the aid of Sunni brethren besieged by a secular regime of Alawites, whom they consider members of an apostate group. There have been reports of a small number of Libyan and Tunisian fighters dying in Syria, despite declarations from many Syrian rebels that they don't need foreign manpower, just weapons and ammunition."

Some opposition members welcome jihadists from other countries but others oppose them. Abouzeid quoted a young man named Ahmad who "said he stumbled on Libyans training on the outskirts of his town. The activist had a camera but didn't film the training. The handful of Libyans were enraged nonetheless, and threatened to break his camera. Ahmad said he told them, ‘This is my country, not yours. You can leave your weapons and you can go home.' They aren't helping us. We don't need them."

Iran is also actively meddling into the conflict by sending jihadists from its own "Revolutionary Guard," a well armed elite force comparable to the former Nazi "Waffen-SS."

Jihadists originating from Europe fighting in Syria

A growing number of jihadists in Syria originate from Europe's vast Muslim immigrant communities. If Jeroen Oerlemans is right some jihadists in the group that took him and his colleague Cantlie hostage, had a Birmingham accent. They were probably from Britain. Britain today is a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. Since the summer of 2005 more than ten major terrorist attacks planned by radical Muslims have been foiled. A Somali militant in Britain was recently caught at the Olympic Park. A British Home Office lawyer "warned after his discovery in the Olympic area that the man – known as CF – wanted to ‘re-engage in terrorism-related activities, either in the UK or Somalia.'" CF comes from a large family of Somali origin from north London. He is believed to have "attended a terrorist training camp and fought alongside jihadis from the al-Qaeda group Al-Shabaab."

In Spain, at least seven major terrorist attacks have been foiled since the successful Al-Qaeda attacks of March 14, 2004. Most recently, three suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists, Ahmad Avar, Muhammad Adanov and Cengiz Yalcin, were arrested by the Spanish police. (Two of them were from Chechnya and claimed they were asylum seekers; Mr. Yalcin is a Turkish immigrant.) However, a judge lamely ruled that the two Chechens should be released due to "lack of evidence." The judge did not recognize the information provided by the British and American intelligence services. It is believed that one of the Chechens is a specialist in making car bombs and was trained by the notorious Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba which was also responsible for the attacks in Bombay/Mumbai in 2008.

An editorial in the Spanish newspaper El País suggested that prevention of terrorist attacks is important but that arrests cannot take place mainly on the basis information provided by intelligence services. In this case, however, explosives were found in Mr. Yalcin's house and he is, therefore, still in custody.

Other attacks have not been foiled, though. Thus, in July a Glasgow-based Algerian asylum seeker named Nasserdine Menni was convicted of financing terrorism over a suicide bomb attack in Sweden. Menni supplied money to Taimour Abdulwahab, an Iraqi immigrant in Sweden who carried out the attack in Stockholm in December 2010. "Police recovered a mobile phone from Abdulwahab's body from which he had made two calls earlier that day to a mobile in Glasgow."

Militant jihadists do pose a serious threat both in the Middle East, Europe and North America. There would not be so many Muslim militants in Europe and North America if there would not have been such a massive influx of immigrants from the Muslim world. Immigration from risk countries and risk areas must be curbed. Otherwise, the free world will continue to import the violence and conflicts of the immigrants' home countries. Those immigrants who resort to violence, serious crime or terrorism must be sent back to their home countries. This is fully in conformity with international refugee law. The International "Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees" says in article 33: "(1.) No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. (2.) The benefit of the present convention may not, however, be claimed by a refugee whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in which he is, or who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particular serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country."

Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website:


NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands), July 27, 2012, p. 2 ("Regelrecht in de handen van fanatieke jihadisten). Foreign jhadists, "Birmingham accent."

Algemeen Dagblad (Netherlands), July 28, 2012, p. 3 ("Gijzelaar Jeroen Oerlemans met geweld in Syrië bevrijd"). A 12-year-old boy from Pakistan.

De Volkskrant (Netherlands), July 28, 2012, p. 7 ("Voor hetzelfde geld ben je verdwenen").

NRC Handelsblad, August 4, 2012, "Z&Z," p. 8. ("De fotograaf en de twee Turkse geheim agenten"). "Were given only water and dates to eat…"

De Volkskrant, July 25, 2012, p. 14, 15 ("Al Qaida zeer actief in Irak… én in Syrië"). Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Rania Abouzeid, The Syria Crisis: Is Al-Qaeda Intervening in the Conflict?, Time, May 14, 2012.

Rania Abouzeid, Meet the Islamist Militants Fighting Alongside Syria's Rebels, Time, July 26, 2012.

BBC News, July 20, 2012 ("Nasserdine Menni guilty of funding Stockholm bomb attack").

El País, (Spain), August 3, 2012, p. 11 ("La lucha sin cuartel contra los yihadistas desde el 11-M"). Foiled terrorist attacks in Spain after March 2004.

El País, August 4, 2102, p. 13 ("El juez envía a prisión solo a uno de los tres presentos islamistas'), p. 24 (‘Prevención frente al terror'); De Telegraaf (Netherlands), August 3, 2012, p. 11 ("Aanslag Al-Qaeda verijdeld").

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