An intriguing look at how one jihadist has moved around the Netherlands. From Radio Netherlands, with thanks to Nicolei:
The Syrian man wanted by the Dutch authorities as the possible mastermind behind the murder of Theo van Gogh almost certainly used the identities of one or more former political prisoners in his home country. For the asylum application he filed in the Netherlands, he appears to have stolen one such identity, that of a former member of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.
The man known as ‘the Syrian’ and ‘the Sheikh’ to members of the extremist “Hofstad” group – which has been linked to the Van Gogh killing and for whom he may have provided “spiritual guidance”- had many aliases. One of these – possibly used for his Dutch asylum request – is Mohammed Basel al-Issa, which happens to be the name of a man who runs a flower shop in the Syrian city of Hama; a place with a reputation as a fundamentalist stronghold.
The information reportedly listed on the wanted al-Issa’s asylum application bears too much resemblance to the personal details of Mr al-Issa the Syrian shopkeeper for there to be any question of coincidence. The man himself is in no doubt: “someone has used my name and my personal history”.
Mr al-Issa the florist is sat at a shabby desk at the back of his shop, and appears dumbfounded as he first hears the news that his identity appears to have been stolen. He can’t believe that ‘he’ has caused such a commotion so far away, in the Netherlands. However, the similarities between his own identity and that of one of the many aliases used by the man wanted by the Dutch authorities are simply too many to be easily discounted. There’s certainly no doubt about the names being the same.
The address, too, is almost identical but for the use of the district where he lives – “Ard al-Khadra” or the green earth – as the name of a street. However, another detail – his residing around the corner from a military court – is completely accurate. His age, 43, is also correct, as is the fact that he spent time in jail. Mr al-Issa was arrested in 1984 for his membership of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, and went on to spend 11 years in jail at the infamous prison in Tadmor (also known as Palmyra). This is three years less than the period of detention specified by the “fake” al-Issa. Other correspondences include the fact that Mr al-Issa did indeed study in Damascus, only his subject was geology and not electrical engineering.
The Syrian authorities have banned Mr al-Issa from travelling outside the country; he doesn’t even have a passport. This is a result of his 11 years in detention. He’s also obliged to report to the security service every month, and specify his contacts during the preceding period. Measures such as these are standard in Syria in the case of Muslim Brothers released from custody.