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Dutch vow tough measures against ‘arrival of jihad’

The government vowed tough measures Friday against what “the arrival of jihad in the Netherlands” after a death threat to a lawmaker was found pinned with a knife to the body of slain filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.
Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in August 2001.Willem Ten Veldhuys / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The government vowed tough measures Friday against what a leading politician called “the arrival of jihad in the Netherlands” after a death threat to a Dutch lawmaker was found pinned with a knife to the body of a slain filmmaker by his radical Islamic attacker.

A five-page letter released Thursday night by the justice minister forced political leaders, including Amsterdam’s Jewish mayor and members of parliament,  to take on bodyguards.

The document, pinned to the body of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was titled “An open Letter to [Aayan] Hirsi Ali,” referring to a Somali-born member of parliament. She scripted Van Gogh’s latest film, “Submission,” which criticized the treatment of women under Islam.

Hirsi Ali, who calls herself an ex-Muslim, has gone into hiding.

‘Worse than we had thought’
Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm agreed with comments by other politicians who called Van Gogh’s murder a declaration of Islamic holy war.

“We are not going to tolerate this. We are going to ratchet up the fight against this sort of terrorism,” he said. “The increase in radicalization is worse than we had thought.”

Among measures under consideration is an emergency law to allow authorities to revoke the Dutch nationality of dual citizens suspected of terrorist activity so they can be deported.

Zalm said the intelligence service, which has already expanded since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, would receive more funding to help it monitor potential terrorist recruits.

The suspected killer in the Van Gogh case, a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan national, was arraigned on six terrorism-related charges.

Van Gogh, a distant relative of the famous 19th-century Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, was shot and stabbed to death Tuesday while cycling down an Amsterdam street. The provocative social commentator and author, whose throat was slashed, will be cremated Tuesday in a public service.

Religious tensions
The murder is testing already strained relations between the ethnic Dutch population and the Muslim community. There are about 300,000 Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands out of a population of 16 million. Zalm said talks were ongoing with Muslim groups over how to avoid a violent backlash against Muslims.

Arsonists are believed to have set fire to a mosque in the central city of Utrecht, said Peter Keijzers, a police spokesman. There were no reports of injuries.

Jozias van Aartsen, parliamentary speaker for the right-wing free-market VVD party, the second-largest party in the government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, issued a statement that called Van Gogh’s slaying tantamount to a declaration of war.

“The jihad has come to the Netherlands, and a small group of jihadist terrorists is attacking the principles of our country,” he said. “I hope the Netherlands will now move beyond denial and do what is fitting in a democracy: take action.

“These people don’t want to change our society; they want to destroy it,” he said.

The terrorist threat left by Van Gogh’s killer carries the ideology of a fundamentalist movement, Takfir wal Hijra, or “Repentance and Flight,” which advocates isolation from what it calls the sinful world, Dutch media reported. The letter, in Dutch and Arabic, predicts the downfall of the “infidel enemies of Islam” in Europe, including the Netherlands, and the United States.

“Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs,” said the letter, which contained apparent quotes from the Quran and verses of poetry. “Only the death will separate the truth from the lies,” it said.

“It is worrying because it gives the impression that it is not the message of an individual, but a wider organization,” Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said.

Terrorism-related charges
Mohammed B.’s lawyer, Jan Peter Plasman, protested the release of the letter, saying it would prejudice the case against his client, identified only as Mohammed B. He would not comment on whether his client was innocent.

Chief prosecutor Leo de Wit said the man faced at least six terrorism-related counts, including charges of murder and “participating in a criminal organization with terrorist characteristics.” It was the first time authorities had characterized the slaying as a terrorist act.

The suspect, who was wounded in the leg in a shootout with police, has refused to talk to investigators. He was arrested with a note in his pocket titled “Drenched in Blood.”

He also is charged with attempted murder of a police officer and a bystander, illegal possession of a firearm, and conspiring to murder others, including Hirsi Ali.

Authorities arrested eight other suspects in Van Gogh’s murder and are looking into possible links between the suspects and foreign terrorist groups.

Two suspects were released, De Wit said Friday. Six will be charged with conspiring to commit murder, he said.

Prosecutors said all were Islamic radicals of North African ancestry. Four also were arrested Oct. 23 on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack but were released for lack of evidence. Donner told parliament that the four had contacts with a suspect in last year’s Casablanca bombings.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Dutch secret service has repeatedly warned that the Netherlands could be a target. It is shadowing 150 extremists and has warned that groups are recruiting Muslim immigrant youths.