Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Dutch grab 38 terrorist suspects


Dutch authorities rounded up 38 suspected members of a Kurdish rebel group in nationwide raids Friday, including "trainees" allegedly being prepared at a rural campground for terrorist attacks in Turkey, officials said Friday.

Authorities said the detainees are members of the former Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, which seeks to carve out an independent Kurdish state in the mountains of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The group, which recently renamed itself KONGRA-GEL, has been branded a terrorist organization by the European Union.

"In the investigation it emerged that at the campground more than 20 people received training for armed fighting for the PKK in Turkey, among other means by committing terrorist attacks," a statement by prosecutors said. "Trainees were taught special war tactics."

There were also indications that "a number of the trainees were destined for Armenia," it said.

More than 200 police were involved in the second major operation in the Netherlands in a week, after special forces used tear gas Wednesday to end a standoff with alleged Islamic radicals in The Hague. Prosecutors said the two operations were not related.

Prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said the suspected Kurdish rebels had been under observation for several months and that "the course was nearly finished."

"We wanted to prevent the group from leaving the country and putting to use the knowledge they had gained," he said.

In Friday's raid of the alleged paramilitary training camp in the far south of the Netherlands, police seized night vision goggles, packages of clothing intended to be sent abroad, instruction materials, fake passports and identity cards. Twenty-nine suspects were arrested.

"Apparently there's been a training center there for a long time, and that's why it was decided to step in," Jan van Homelen, mayor of the nearby town of Boxtel said on national television.

Nine others were arrested in separate raids in The Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, and the town of Capelle aan den Ijssel.

The rebels ended a five-year unilateral cease-fire in June and have carried out a number of attacks recently, most in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

The group has been on the EU's list of terrorist organizations since April, and Dutch prosecutors said those arrested Friday will likely be charged as members.

Other detainees allegedly arranged money transfers, passports to PKK members in Turkey and Armenia, and aided communication between rebel fighters, prosecutors said.

The suspects, whose names were not released, were 33 men and five women.

Van Homelen said the suspects did not appear to have used weapons or explosives in their training, which he described as "more theoretical."

Prosecutors said the suspects said they were Kurdish but they were all considered Turkish nationals by the Dutch state.

No names were released.

On Monday, The Hague's district court blocked the extradition of alleged PKK leader Nuriye Kesbir to Turkey for her suspected role in a series of bombings in the 1990s. The Justice Ministry said it would appeal the decision.

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