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International Terrorist Support Groups Thrive in Belgium and Netherlands

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

The British researcher Dr. R. Gunaratna warned that, especially in The Netherlands, because of its total lack of anti-terrorism laws and its very high level of religious, cultural and judicial tolerance, Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist groups are allowed to thrive. They use Amsterdam and Rotterdam as central bases in the West from which they garnish funds, recruit activists from the local Muslim youth cultural groups, and purchase highly sophisticated arms in the world's largest trading hub: Rotterdam harbor.

The Kurdish PKK, the Tamil Tigers and the Philippines' New People's Army all use the liberal Dutch territory, from which they garnish new converts, turn them into activist supporters, launder and raise funds and purchase sophisticated equipment. These Dutch-based groups, especially, also create waves of propaganda material – and, being based in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp, also have no difficulty in purchasing any weapons and other high-tech support materials with which to mount terrorist attacks abroad.

Another new, disturbing pattern pointing to a new form of terrorism against the civilian population at large has been detected in both harbor towns of Antwerp and Rotterdam: "Muslim cultural organizations" have also turned the streets of Antwerp and Rotterdam into main battlegrounds for Muslim-fundamentalist male criminal youth gangs who deliberately attack, rob and invade ethno-European cultural events and throngs of shoppers in the large shopping districts.

These well-organized attacks are leaving the local Dutch-speaking ethno-Europeans totally vulnerable and defenseless because their governments have no anti-terrorist laws with which to stop such highly aggressive youth groups from forming in the first place.

For instance, about 5.1 percent of Rotterdam's population is of Moroccan origin – yet about 10 percent of all the city's arrested criminal suspects are of Moroccan origin, according to Rotterdam's latest police statistics issued by chief inspector J. Verbeek and Erasmus University.

In the Dutch-speaking region's latest criminal youth gang attack in Belgium, in the suburb of Hasselt in Antwerp on Sept. 24, large groups of Algerian-Moroccan youths, centrally organized by cell phones and armed with batons and insecticide spray, attacked hundreds of local Flemish citizens holding their traditional end-of-summer fair and circus event at Kruger market square.

Many eyewitnesses who described the terror and destruction at the usually jolly and peaceful Flemish circus fair said the Algerian and Moroccan youths targeted especially women and girls as the youth gangs tore into the carnival goers, spraying people's eyes with insecticides and deodorants; spitting at and insulting especially the Flemish; ordering the girls and women to wear headscarves and calling them whores; cursing the men as "Flemish pork-eaters"; spitting on and befouling with urine and soil the carnival's traditional pancake dinners and destroying the antique, highly valuable carousel and circus equipment hired for the Hasselt community carnival.

Flemish old-age pensioners and children alike were forced to flee in fear of being blinded by spray, and were beaten up and kicked. The Flemish carnival goers – all local residents – had to flee from a steady stream of loud, rude verbal abuse from the young Algerians and Moroccans invading their neighborhood. Many witnesses also said the youths chanted popular slogans used by the Muslim-terrorist organization GIA. Some of these events were described in a local Antwerp newspaper.

Carnival goers who tried to remain and finish their traditional pancake meals or who tried to protect the antique circus equipment were physically attacked by kick-boxing youths. The equipment and musical instruments were destroyed during the racist rampage. There were very few police in attendance. The mainstream Belgian news media briefly described the event as a "scuffle" at a local carnival without mentioning the racist overtones.

In Rotterdam, only about 60 miles north of Antwerp, a similar pattern has also been developing over the past year, with widespread reports of assaults by Moroccan-Algerian youth gangs – described by Dutch police as "criminal youth gangs of North African descent"– but who are described by the news media as being highly centrally organized through cell phones.

These gangs target major shopping districts and traditional European cultural and sporting events to rob, terrorize and abuse especially the ethno-Dutch population. During these organized attacks, the youths are also seen to deliberately target ethno-European girls and women, demanding that they start obeying the strict Muslim shari'a laws favored by terrorist regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, which require total subservience to males. Many women shoppers now shun these major shopping districts to avoid such confrontations.

Dutch sociologists do not link these aggressive criminal North African male youth gangs to any Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist organizations – instead claiming that this first generation of Algerian-Moroccan youths, primarily raised without fathers, were "deculturized" and therefore aimlessly floating into such destructive criminal behavior.

The sociologists, in fact, urged even more government subsidies to these "cultural" groups to try and combat such behavior. By tradition and unlike Christian women, these sociologists point out, Muslim women are never allowed to discipline any of their male children and the cultural groups might be able to better "channel their male energies."

However, there's a much more organized situation going on here than these Dutch sociologists would have us believe. For example, on the night after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, large groups of North African youths congregated in the town squares in Antwerp and also in the town of Ede in The Netherlands. In this town, a huge crowd of Muslim male youths had started to congregate shortly after the attacks and started celebrating what they themselves told the horrified local citizens was their personal "victory against America."

This was too much even for the highly liberal Dutch – Ede citizens called in the local police and demanded the youths' removal. However, the local police station commander lamely excused his lack of inaction by saying that the youths had been "expressing their rights to free speech available to all Dutch citizens" and that he was not allowed to stop the distasteful celebration.

And in a shock survey carried out by Muslim cultural publications the day after the attack, a full 80 percent of the thousands of Dutch Muslims questioned said that they had been in favor of the terrorist attacks.

Besides these clear danger signals from the Muslim community in The Netherlands itself, the Dutch government this week was also warned by the British anti-terrorism expert Gunaratna, of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Science at St. Andrews University in Scotland, to "stop disregarding the international fight against terrorism, and start prohibiting these terrorist support groups by law."

He urged the Dutch government to immediately change its laws and immediately prohibit these support groups. "Your country must change its laws at once if it wants to remain free of terrorism," he said.

The Netherlands does not have any anti-terrorism laws – and thus openly allowed fundraising and arms purchase exporting by, for instance, terrorist support groups during the anti-apartheid movement's support of the terrorist cells of the African Nationalist Congress (ANC) and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) before 1994.

Many Dutch citizens – such as the head of the now-defunct "Anti-apartheid movement Netherlands," the journalist Connie Braam – even actively participated in smuggling weapons and bombs into South Africa from Dutch territory and without any intervention from the Dutch government, which even provided government funding for this terrorist support group.

Dutch law itself contributes to the thriving terrorist support-group culture in The Netherlands. It does not allow any actions to be undertaken against support groups of terrorist organizations if it cannot be firmly proven that their fundraising and other physical support led to the terror attacks.

However, the internal security service of The Netherlands (BVD) itself is also not concentrating on probing such Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist activities as much as they are infiltrating right-wing or neo-Nazi groups, as the Dutch government has traditionally viewed such fascism as the prime enemy of peace and prosperity since the Nazi occupation during WWII.

As long as the Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist support groups do not misbehave inside The Netherlands, they can therefore continue to use the Dutch territory from which to garnish economic and material support – including purchasing highly sophisticated weaponry from the local arms industry – even if these directly lead to terrorist attacks outside The Netherlands, as also happened during the terrorist campaign conducted by the ANC and the PAC against the apartheid government in South Africa prior to 1994.

Belgium does have some anti-terrorist legislation also primarily targeting right-wing neo-Nazi groups – but is juristically more lenient toward Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist support groups on Belgian soil.

Other European countries do have better anti-terrorist legislation, with Great Britain having the most stringent laws due to its Northern Ireland troubles.

Gunaratna said many of these groups have been active in The Netherlands for many years. "They conduct fundraisers and launder funds in The Netherlands to carry out violent attacks in Asia and the Middle East," he said.

He also noticed such support groups among other Muslim communities not known for terrorist activities, such as the Sikhs, Sri Lankans, and Pakistani and Kurd cultural groups – many of which are even subsidized by the Dutch government.

American expert Yossef Bodansky, author of a book on bin Laden, also confirmed that Amsterdam-based shipping companies operate as front organizations for the Al Qaida organization. This was also confirmed by the French-Arabian newspaper Al Watan Al Arabi.

Dutch internal affairs minister De Vries shrugged a dismayed "So what can I do about it?" reaction when confronted with these warnings from international experts – telling the TV program "Buitenhof" that he actually "could not exclude that subversive activities might be taking place inside such Muslim cultural groups."

And he even warned a few days later after talks with the 25 mayors of the main Dutch cities in charge of the regional police corps that "the Dutch cannot now start waging a cold war against Muslim religious groups."

He also warned Amsterdam's chief justice officer L. de Wit – who had told the news media that he would call in the defense force in case of pro-bin Laden riots in the capital city – that it was "very foolish to speculate in public about possible riots."

He also considered it unnecessary to rush to protect and beef up the security for all the public buildings and public figures against terrorist attacks. "There is no concrete terrorist threat in The Netherlands," he concluded and advised that only "some public buildings" had had their security stepped up. Al Watan

Meanwhile, Rotterdam's mayor, Mr. I. Opstelten, said the four men arrested in his city last week as suspects connected to the terrorist attacks on America still have not provided any leads that could link them. One is in a routine holding facility for illegal aliens and the other three are in police custody pending the investigation, he said.

The Dutch internal security organization, the BVD, has managed to confiscate a "suspicious parcel" destined for the United States, which was posted in the Swartjan street post office in Rotterdam. The country's anti-terrorist expert P. van der Molen said the main suspect of this Muslim support group, a Tunisian citizen, is still in custody in Brussels, Belgium.

Some anti-Muslim reactions were also recorded in The Netherlands since the Sept. 11 infamy. About 25 incidents were recorded by Dutch police, including arson, graffiti, and threats against mosques and Islamic schools in the towns of Vlissingen, Uden, Zwolle, Heerlen, The Hague and Rijssen. Two Islamic schools were torched, one in Nijmegen and the other in Drachten.

The Dutch cabinet minister in charge of "integration management," Mr. Van Boxtel, said this "unacceptable behavior against our young new Dutch citizens, this mini-terrorism, will be punished with the full force of Dutch law."

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The British researcher Dr. R. Gunaratna warned that, especially in The Netherlands, because of its total lack of anti-terrorism laws and its very high level of religious, cultural and judicial tolerance, Muslim-fundamentalist terrorist groups are allowed to thrive. They...
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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