AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch authorities are investigating a possible indirect link between the suspected killer of a filmmaker critical of Islam and last year’s Casablanca bombings, a security source says.
The source confirmed a report in the Algemeen Dagblad daily that the suspect, identified by Dutch media as
Mohammed B., had connections with people who were questioned after the May 2003 suicide bombings in the Moroccan city which killed 45.
Filmmaker Theo van Gogh was repeatedly stabbed after he was shot as he cycled to work in Amsterdam. His throat was slit and a five-page letter suggesting a “radical Islamic” motive was pinned to his body with a knife.
Police said in a statement on Thursday that a 26-year-old with dual Moroccan and Dutch nationality arrested after the killing had already come to their attention in a probe in October 2003.
That investigation concluded that the suspect was linked to individuals who were possibly preparing “terrorist activities” although he himself was not involved in those activities.
The authorities announced on Wednesday they had arrested eight north Africans who knew the suspect — six Moroccans, one Algerian and one with dual Spanish and Moroccan nationality.
They said on Thursday they were holding the eight on suspicion of possible terrorist crimes and said they had seized computers, video tapes, books and fundamentalist literature in searches of five houses in Amsterdam.
GOVERNMENT UNDER FIRE
The centre-right government faces mounting criticism for its handling of the case, in particular because the
suspected killer was known to the AIVD security service.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who became a member of parliament for the Dutch liberals and who worked with Van Gogh on a film about abuse of Muslim women, said the authorities should have taken death threats against him more seriously.
“I am furious to find out that the murderer of Theo van Gogh was known to the AIVD — I suspect that a stupid, artificial distinction was made between politicians and opinion formers,” she said. Hirsi Ali has police protection after many threats.
Jozias van Aartsen, parliamentary leader of the VVD liberals who are partners in the government coalition, said the security services had failed.
“The mood reminds me a bit of May 1940. The Netherlands was completely taken by surprise by the German
invasion. It seems to me that we are again being surprised,” Van Aartsen told the Trouw newspaper in an interview.
Parliament is due to debate the issue with ministers next week, probably after Tuesday’s cremation of Van Gogh.
The suspect, who was shot in the leg as police tried to arrest him, is in a prison hospital and will be brought before a judge on Friday at the latest.