Thursday, November 11, 2004


More on the Action in the Netherlands Yesterday


In the hours before dawn yesterday, hundreds of Dutch police stormed an apartment building in a poor immigrant neighbourhood in The Hague where an Islamist cell was believed to be hiding. They fought a pitched gun battle for hours with the suspects, one of whom yelled at one point, "I am going to behead you."

The group exploded at least one booby-trap bomb in the building. A hand grenade was also thrown from the building at police, three of whom were injured, one very seriously.

At least two people were arrested, one of them after being shot in the shoulder, and a third person was arrested in a related action in the city of Utrecht, police said. Theneighbourhood was cordoned off, its buildings were evacuated and airplanes were forbidden to fly over The Hague for much of yesterday.

As the battle raged, a small riot took place outside the building between white protesters and North African youths.

This week, the Netherlands' entire Muslim community, almost a million people or 6 per cent of the population, seemed to be blamed for the killing of Mr. van Gogh.

On Monday night, a Muslim school was bombed, and another school was burned to the ground on Tuesday.

But the protesters who filled the streets of Dutch cities yesterday did not generally come from the country's extreme right.

Most of them described themselves as leftists, liberals or social democrats, who have turned against Muslims because of their conservative values.

"Keep in mind that there is some real tension here: The Netherlands are a highly secularized, perhaps even anti-religious and progressive society, and the large majority of the immigrants are religious and conservative," said Boris Slijper, a specialist in cultural conflict at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies in Amsterdam.

He said that most of the protesters are left-leaning advocates of immigration who are angered by the conservatism and intolerance of some Muslims.

A survey printed yesterday in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad found that a "large majority" of Dutch citizens feel that their country has changed permanently since the killing of Mr. van Gogh.

Some newspapers and commentators have dubbed his death "the 2/11 killing," echoing the U.S. nomenclature for Sept. 11, 2001.

At a European Union gathering in northern the Netherlands.

Dutch Justice Minister Rita Verdonk argued that the killings and reprisals resulted from immigration policies that had not been sufficiently selective.

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