A threat of terrorist strikes on Dutch soil has been posted on an Islamic website. A group calling itself Islamic Tawhid has warned it will rock the Netherlands with car bombs if Dutch troops are not withdrawn from Iraq. The group says it will also target other European countries with a military presence in Iraq, including Italy.
The threat comes just a day after the death of a Dutch soldier in Iraq following an attack on an army vehicle in which five other Dutch troops were seriously injured. The foreign ministry says it is taking the threat seriously, as it always does.
Neither event has caused a sense of panic, says terrorism analyst Edwin Bakker from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. He adds that the death of the Dutch soldier, the second to die in an ambush in Iraq, has not weakened The Hague’s resolve.
“There was no real panic after the incident. I think people are well aware that this can happen. It was also discussed before troops were sent to Iraq, so everybody is aware of the threat. On the other hand of course, people are wondering what will happen next, with the uprising in Najaf so close to the area where the Dutch have been stationed.”
No review likely
Mr Bakker says that although there never was much support in the Netherlands for the war in Iraq, Saturday’s murder is unlikely to cause any political debate, let alone a review of the position of the 1,300-strong Dutch contingent, which has been in southern Iraq for just over a year.
“There is only one political party which was against sending troops to Iraq and against prolonging their stay there. All political parties agreed because we believe in general that our soldiers are doing a good job there. They are helping Iraqis and we´re thinking that we are different from the Americans, that we are operating in a more peaceful manner. In that sense, the death of the second Dutch serviceman comes as a shock, because we were thinking that we were doing a very good thing in Iraq, […] but there will not be a political debate about withdrawing Dutch troops from Iraq.”
Bloody Islamic earthquake
On Sunday, Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende came out very strongly to say that the country would hold firm in Iraq. “This was not an attack by the Iraqi people but by individuals who are trying to sabotage the rebuilding of Iraq by their destructive actions,” he stressed in a statement.
But just after the prime minister spoke, a terrorist warning appeared on the Internet from a shadowy group calling itself Jama’at al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Group for Unity and Jihad).
“Expect a hell that will turn your nights into bloodbaths,” it said in the usual fiery rhetoric, addressing “the Dutch government and people.” The group warned the statement was “a final message that we are sending to you, and it is a simple message, namely the pullout of Dutch forces from Iraq.”
“You will be surprised by the Islamic earthquake that will shake your country. You did not learn from the lesson of Spain and other countries. You only understand the language of blood and car bombs,” it warned.
Terrorism expert Edwin Bakker says it’s important to investigate very carefully where this terrorist threat comes from.
“Supposedly, it was al-Tawhid, the organisation of [alleged Al-Qaeda operative] Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is one of the most dangerous terrorists in the Middle East at the moment. So that seems very threatening, but I would like to stress that it’s very important to find out where it comes from. Could it be a joke by somebody; is it a threat by an organisation which is not the same as it says it is? A thorough investigation is very much needed.”
“A number of recent threats in Europe have proven not to be serious threats. On the other hand, this is a different kind of organisation, but this is also an organisation that is almost exclusively operating in the Middle East. There are claims that it was connected with the bombings in Madrid and those in Istanbul, but this has never been proven, and is perhaps even unlikely, so the threat to the Dutch may be mostly directed to the Dutch troops in Iraq. And in that sense, if it’s true, it’s an additional risk to these troops, but I doubt whether the risk of an attack on Dutch soil has increased with this threat.”
Aug. 16, 2004
Josh Maiyo and Theo Tamis