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November 4, 2004
Police Arrest 8 Tied to Suspect in Killing of Dutch Filmmaker
By MARLISE SIMONS
PARIS, Nov. 3 - The police arrested eight men suspected of being Islamic
militants on Wednesday in connection with the killing of a Dutch filmmaker,
Theo van Gogh, Dutch officials said.
The authorities said the men ranged in age from 19 to 27 and six of them were
Moroccan, one was Algerian and one had dual Moroccan and Spanish citizenship.
They would not identify the men or release more details.
The officials said the suspect in the case, who had not been identified, had
ties to Islamic militants and had visited the apartments of the eight men
arrested Wednesday. They said they believed the man had "acted from a radical
Mr. van Gogh, a grandson of Vincent van Gogh's brother, Theo, was an outspoken
opponent of Islamic extremism and recently received death threats after the
broadcast of his short film, "Submission," which criticized mistreatment of
Muslim women. He was shot and stabbed on an Amsterdam street early on Tuesday.
The suspect, a Dutch and Moroccan national, was arrested shortly after the
killing, following an exchange of fire in which he and a police officer were
Throughout the day on Tuesday the police said the suspect had no previous
police record. But around midnight, the justice minister, Jan Hein Donner, and
the interior minister, Johan Remkes, announced that the man was in fact known
to the Intelligence Service.
"He moved on the periphery of a group of Muslim militants but he was not part
of the hard core of the group," Mr. Remkes said.
In a joint letter to Parliament dated Wednesday, the ministers said that
although the suspect's name appeared to be linked to others under
investigation, there was no sign that he was planning acts of violence. They
said they were still investigating "whether he operated on his own or had help
from others in preparing and carrying out his act."
The letter further said: "Given what is known now there are serious
considerations that the suspect acted from a radical Islamic conviction." The
ministers said investigators were still analyzing a message in Arabic found on
the body of the victim and additional written material the suspect was carrying
when he was arrested.
In their letter the ministers also said that government officials and Islamic
groups had held extensive meetings on Tuesday afternoon to discuss how to fight
extremism. The ministers said great efforts had to be made to avoid clashes
between opposing groups. To that end, they said they had written to mayors and
town councils urging them to engage in discussions with local Muslim groups.
A spokesman for the Intelligence Service, Miranda Havinga, said Wednesday in a
telephone interview that for the time being no further information about the
suspect and his circle would be disclosed "in order not to hamper the ongoing
In June and July, the police, acting on information from the Intelligence
Service, arrested five Islamic militants, one of them an 18-year-old Moroccan,
Samir Azzouz, who was found to have in his home floor plans of the country's
only nuclear power plant, Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, the Parliament, the
Defense Ministry and several other public buildings in The Hague.
At the time, the government issued a security alert, offering explanations
several weeks later. Until Tuesday, there had been no Islamic-linked violence
on Dutch soil. The spokesman for the Intelligence Service said Wednesday that
almost 40 people had been arrested over the last several years on suspicion of
planning acts of terrorism or recruiting militants.
Few militants are among the close to one million Muslim immigrants or their
descendants in the Netherlands, a government report published in August said.
But it said that "small groups of young Muslims, mainly of North African
origin, have appeared susceptible to radical views."
Militant recruiters focus their efforts on young, jobless or alienated men, a
government official said in an earlier interview. An official of the Justice
Ministry said more than 150 people suspected of being militants were under
Several Dutch newspapers, quoting unnamed police sources, reported Wednesday
that the suspect in the killing had ties to Samir Azzouz, who has been
arraigned on charges of planning violence and is still in prison awaiting
The spokesman at the Intelligence Service declined to comment on the presumed
In its report issued in August, the Intelligence Service said some Islamic
extremist cells had been set up in the Netherlands, in part because of the
openness of the society and the country's central location in Europe, which has
attracted other forms of organized crime as well.
The fear is that the killing may incite right-wing groups to attack immigrants,
something that has occurred elsewhere in Europe but has rarely occurred in the