Dutch authorities believe that 13 men arrested on terrorism charges after the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh are members of a radical Islamic group with international links and a Syrian-born spiritual leader.
Dutch intelligence calls the group the Hofstad network, and says it has been inspired by a 43-year-old Syrian, Redouan Issar, a Justice Ministry official said.
Van Gogh, who had made a short film critical of the treatment of women in Muslim societies, was slain Nov. 2 on an Amsterdam street. The killing set off a wave of reprisal attacks on more than 20 Islamic sites in the Netherlands, including a mosque that was gutted by fire early Saturday.
Van Gogh’s accused killer, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, was arrested minutes after the filmmaker died of gunshot wounds and a slit throat. Bouyeri had a will in his pocket saying he was prepared to die for jihad.
In a letter sent to parliament Thursday, Interior Minister Johan Remkes gave the clearest picture yet of the Dutch cell believed to be behind the killing.
Remkes said the Hofstad network, composed mostly of young Dutch Muslims of North African ancestry, had links to networks in Spain and Belgium. He said that several members of the group have traveled to Pakistan for training and that its members were under the influence of Issar for many years.
Issar’s whereabouts are unknown.