A young Syrian rebel fighter hold a copy of the Koran and a rocket-propelled grenade. Photo: AFP
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands - A Dutch man of Moroccan descent was killed this week, as fighting between the Kurds and Islamist groups spread this week to Aleppo’s Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood and two towns east of the city, raising worries that jihadists from the Netherlands are increasingly involved in the Syrian civil war.
The dead Dutchman was identified as Choukri Masali, alias Abu Walae, and pro-jihadist website DeWareReligie.nl claimed he was the brother of the first “Dutch martyr” of the Syrian war, Mourad Masali, who was killed in March.
Masalai was likely a member of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that is allegedly backed by Turkey and has been involved in fighting against the People’s Protection Units, a militia that is regarded as the Syrian fighting arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The PKK has been involved in a separatist war with Turkey.
According to the website, Masali was killed by two bullets in a fight with the “PKK.”
Hundreds of jihadists from the Netherlands have reportedly been recruited to fight in Syria, and four have been reported killed.
The same website reported on July 17 that Dutch jihadists and other “Islamic fighters” were involved in a blockade of Kurdish villages in the countryside around Aleppo.
Kurdish organizations in the Netherlands close to the PKK have expressed increasing worries, after several Kurds also headed to Syria, after being recruited by Arab mosques in the Dutch cities of The Hague, Zoetermeer, Leiden, and Rotterdam.
The worries have been been over concern that the recruits would end up fighting against Kurds in Syria. Some of the Dutch jihadists were Kurds originally from Turkey, including from pro-PKK families.
Aydin Batman, chairman of the Kurdish People’s Assembly in the Netherlands, claimed that 160 recruits had been sent to Syria, saying he was worried they would end up fighting against the Kurds.
“Youth are sent to fight Rojava’s (Syria’s) Kurds,” Batman said. “This is an international organization. It’s not possible that European states are unaware about all those who are sent all from Europe,” the Europe-based pro-Kurdish Yeni Ozgur Politika newspaper quoted him as sayiing.
Three jihadists were arrested in the Dutch city of Rotterdam last November, including a pair of Kurds from Turkey. A 16-year old Kurdish girl and her husband, both living in the Netherlands, were stopped at a Belgian airport before they could travel to Syria.
In February, the head of the Dutch intelligence service AIVD, Rob Bertholee, expressed worries about Dutch citizens fighting in Syria.
“It is in my opinion very worrying because of the fighting experience they gain there, and the ideology they learn there, and it fact they might be traumatized. All of that they will take with them, when they return to the Netherlands,” he said on a television program.