Dutch police arrest Syrian Nusra commander on suspicion of terrorism

The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle in Syria as a commander of a terrorist battalion.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a 47-year-old Syrian in Kapelle, the Netherlands, who is accused of terrorism and committing war crimes in Syria.

The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander of a “terrorist Jabhat al-Nusra battalion,” the Dutch police said in a statement in Arabic, English, and Dutch.

Formed in 2012, the Nusra Front was linked to al-Qaida and was one of the main extremist groups in Syria fighting the Syrian government and Kurds.

It publically broke with al-Qaida in mid-2016 and is now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) that controls most of the Idlib province.

The man fought under the name of Abu Khuder against the Syrian government.

The battalion which the suspect allegedly commanded became known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan), the Dutch police said.

Al-Mohassan is a town in eastern Syria, administratively part of the Deir al-Zor Governorate, which, since 2017, is under the control of the Syrian government.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a scholar studying Syria’s “jihadi groups” and ancient Germanic languages, told Kurdistan 24 that “they were just people in the area who just called themselves Ghuraba’a [strangers], who were aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaida.”

Britain’s The Guardian interviewed Abu Khuder in July 2012 in Syria.

He was a founder of one the first battalions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the province.

Later, he became disillusioned and split from the FSA, and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida’s Nusra Front, leading one of their battalions.

He has resided in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit.

The police searched the suspect’s house, seizing documents, a computer, and a smartphone.

The operation was coordinated with the German police who raided six homes of other suspected jihadi group members in Germany.

Moreover, the house of a man in Ede, the Netherlands, has been searched. The man was allegedly in contact with the suspect.

The criminal investigation against Khuder started with information from the German police, who provided witness testimonies against the suspect.

Abu Khuder will be brought before the examining judge of the District Court in The Hague on Friday, which has been appointed to rule on cases concerning international crimes, including war crimes.

Khuder is not the only Syrian asylum seeker who faces trial in the Netherlands on charges of being a member of the Nusra Front.

In February, Dutch authorities said they asked for witnesses to prove two brothers, charged with alleged membership in the Nusra Front group, were involved in crimes and attacks in Syria.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany