Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dealing with Islamic extremists in the Netherlands


The Dutch secret service said on Thursday it had taken steps to deal with potential threats from Muslim youths turning to religious radicalism.

About 1,000 young Muslims are believed to have turned extremist in the Netherlands, some by accessing Web sites on their own or through contacts made in Internet chat rooms.

"Under the influence of an ultra-orthodox interpretation of Islam, youngsters are secluding themselves from society and in the most extreme cases they become prone for recruitment for the jihad," the AIVD Dutch intelligence service said in a statement.

The service has been criticised by the Dutch press for failing to prevent the November assassination of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh who criticised Islam.

But it said it was monitoring between 100 and 200 people suspected of links with terrorism, and will recruit about 700 people, mainly in its investigative branch, to improve operations.

It will also develop new "technical intelligence" measures such as advanced wiretapping equipment.

"The murder of Theo van Gogh was an enormous shock to our services. This does not mean that we thought a terrorist attack of this kind could never occur," the AIVD's head Sybrand van Hulst told reporters.

Van Hulst said several homegrown cells had appeared such as the "Hofstad group", suspected of threatening to kill politicians and apparently operating independently of international terrorist networks.

The pretrial court hearing of 12 young Muslim men suspected of belonging to the Hofstad group is due on Monday.

Van Hulst said those arrests had dealt a blow to extremists, but warned Van Gogh's murder could inspire similar acts, carried out by an individual.

A Dutch-Moroccan man has been charged with the murder.

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AIVD: home-grown terrorists are biggest threat

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