Four held in Belgium on Dutch warrant over Somali 'terror' links

31st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Four men detained in Kenya last week allegedly en route to a jihadist training camp in Somalia were arrested in Belgium on a Dutch warrant on Thursday, prosecutors in The Hague said.

THE HAGUE - The Dutch national prosecuting authority said the four -- three Dutch citizens and a Moroccan with Dutch residency status, and all aged 21 -- were arrested at Brussels airport "after being expelled from Kenya".

They are "suspected of participation in a terrorist organisation," it said, after they were stopped last Friday in Kenya from where they were allegedly "on their way to a jihadist training camp in Somalia."

Dutch media reported the four were suspected of having aided Somalia's Shebab Islamic militant group.

It was not immediately known why Kenyan authorities had not sent the four directly to the Netherlands. One of the three Dutchmen is of Somali origin and the other of Moroccan origin.

The Netherlands, where police have opened an investigation into "possible involvement in terrorism," is seeking the men's extradition from Belgium.

A prosecution spokesman in Brussels said the extradition request "could take days or months" to process.

"If the suspects agree with their extradition in line with the simple formula that exists between the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), it can take just a few days.

"But if they object, it will be necessary to verify the legality of the Dutch request and this could take weeks or even months."

Dutch prosecutors, meanwhile, said investigators searched two homes linked to the men in The Hague on Thursday morning and seized "a large number of documents".

And they confirmed that one among the group had been held in Azerbaijan in November 2005 on suspicion of planning to take part in jihad with two others.

He was sent to the Netherlands at the time, where he was questioned "but not prosecuted," spokeswoman Marieke van der Molen said.

The radical Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab in Somalia have admitted to receiving backing from foreign fighters in their bid to topple President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Kenya, which shares a long border with the lawless Horn of Africa country, has been on the alert for a possible attack on its soil.


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