Holland Is Still Not Saying “al Qaeda” out Loud

The Netherlands authorities still resort to a dozen roundabout locutions to avoid admitting that their country has been invaded by hidden al Qaeda cells. That word is still taboo in liberal Holland, even after the country was shocked out of its complacency by the ritual murder on November 2 of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street. He was attacked after Dutch television aired his documentary “Submission” which exposed some Islamic customs towards women.
The 13 Muslim radicals arrested after the murder were described as “members of a (nameless) radical Islamic group with international links.” Its Syrian-born spiritual leader, a multi-named character called Redouan al-Issar, 43, has vanished without trace. One of his aliases is Abu Khaled, the name used by al Qaeda fugitive Mohammed Bahaiah, a courier between Osama bin Laden and European cells.
Dutch intelligence calls the ring, composed mostly of young Dutch Muslims of North African descent, the “Hofstad Netwerk,” and admits it has links in Spain and Belgium and that several of its members have traveled to Pakistan for training. The official sources do not say which organization provided the training.
Van Gogh’s killer, 26-year old Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan, was arrested in a fight with police after shooting his victim six times and slitting his throat. He then impaled two knives in his chest – one with a note attached threatening more attacks on Dutch politicians in the name of radical Islam.
Reminded of the 2002 assassination of the popular Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn – after he warned that Islamic intolerance was a “new fascism” – thousands of Netherlanders turned out to protest the murder; 20 mosques and schools were attacked or torched and some churches damaged in retaliation. The right-of-center government has come under heavy crossfire – from some quarters for failing to understand and assimilate the Muslim immigrants, but increasingly by parliamentarians and ordinary citizens for its tardiness in the name of Dutch tolerance in tackling the rising jihadist threat.
Under pressure to level with the public, on November 12, interior minister Johan Remkes who is responsible for the secret service released a statement on the Hofstad Netwerk.
The number of persons and networks thinking and acting in terms of actual violence, he wrote, may be limited, but “the feeding ground from which they spring… runs into thousands…”
The Dutch secret service has kept some 200 suspected terrorists under surveillance since the Sept. 11 attacks in America. One, Jason W., was arrested in The Hague last Wednesday, November 10, together with a second suspect, after a 14-hour standoff with the police during which one of them lobbed a hand grenade that injured four officers. The area was sealed off and a no-fly zone imposed over the city before the pair were finally arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
The Dutch group received some of its orders from Abdeladim Akoudad, whom the Moroccan government believed involved in the May 2003 terrorist strikes in Casablanca which killed 32, and who was arrested near Barcelona in October 2003 at Rabat’s request. Akoudad’s detention led to the roundup in the Netherlands of five suspects in October 2003, including Samir Azzouz, a friend of van Gogh’s killer Bouyeri. The five were planning violent attacks on Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, the Dutch parliament and the Borssele nuclear reactor.
Most recently, three members of the Dutch network traveled to Portugal for the 2004 European soccer championships. They were arrested and deported on suspicion of plotting an attack.
The statement by the Dutch interior minister did not save him from a no-confidence motion in parliament over the government’s handling of the fallout from the van Gogh murder. The motion was defeated but the criticism and complaints of unanswered questions continue – such as why was not the filmmaker adequately protected after he made his documentary.
Jozias van Aartsen, head of the Liberal WD party, which is a member of the government coalition, accused the cabinet of being naive about Muslim extremism and demanded tougher legal measures to combat the threat. “Dialogue is important” he said, “but not the number one measure. You don’t reach out to extremists with a government information campaign. This murderer is not a poor, lonely immigrant. That is not his profile. The killing was the product of international jihad.” (al Qaeda?)
Other MPs urged the government to control further outbreaks against Muslims to avoid generating a climate conducive to extremist recruitment.
While the debate raged, Queen Beatrix was drafted in by Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen. In a bid to restore social harmony, she visited Moroccans at a multicultural youth center. She also voiced her concern over the murder of the great grandson of Theo van Gogh, brother of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
The Dutch government has meanwhile put together a new package of new counter-terrorism measures, which expands the scope of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), increases the number of people under surveillance and permits the deportation of extremist imams and the removal of Dutch nationality from people with dual citizenship who are convicted of terrorist crimes.
The newly-awakened public is now asking why those measures were not enacted two years ago.
The answer came from one of their own.
Last week, NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, former Dutch foreign minister, described “a perception gap” on global terror between Europe and the United States, as a result of which Europe lagged behind the US in merging external and internal security to combat terrorism. He urged Europe to catch up. Scheffer was the first foreign statesman to be received by President George W. Bush after his election.

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