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ISIS followers in Syria posing as White Helmets. Photo supplied
The Hague

Dutch government supported armed groups designated as terrorists

The Dutch government supported an armed group in Syria that has been labeled as a terrorist organisation by the country's own Public Prosecution Service.

Published: September 11, 2018, 8:54 am

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    In 2017 the Netherlands secretly provided an Islamist movement with materiel while next month, a Dutch Syrian gang will be going on trial for participation in Jabhat al-Shamiya. Research done by Nieuwsuur and conservative daily Trouw revealed that the so-called battle group Jabhat al-Shamiya had received among other things, uniforms and pick-up trucks.

    The Netherlands sent the logistics equipment to Jabhat al-Shamiya as part of the state secret “NLA” program, or “non lethal assistance”. Through this program, the Netherlands supplied “non-lethal goods” to 22 combat groups in Syria from 2015 to the beginning of this year. One of those groups, according to the research by Nieuwsuur and Trouw, is Jabhat al-Shamiya.

    The Public Prosecutor is currently prosecuting a Dutch man because in 2015 he allegedly participated in Jabhat al-Shamiya. The indictment states that the group is “salafist and jihadist”, “strives for the establishment of a caliphate” and “cannot but qualify” as a “criminal organisation with terrorist intent”.

    This description can, according to experts, result in legal complications if it becomes clear that the Dutch State has supported terrorists. The research by Nieuwsuur and Trouw also shows that the supervision of the aid to various Syrian groups was inadequate.

    Foreign Minister Stef Blok. Wikipedia

    Stef Blok, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, unexpectedly sent a letter to the Lower House on Friday evening announcing that support for Syrian opposition groups would be terminated.

    A victory of President Assad seems imminent and the tide can not be reversed, according to the ministers.

    Blok’s letter came after Nieuwsuur and Trouw had presented their research in a second interview last week. The department replied that it takes the findings of Nieuwsuur and Trouw “very seriously” indeed. “The messages strengthen our conviction that stopping the support was the right decision”, according to a government spokesman.

    The ministry also stated that there had been insufficient supervision of the NLA program and that the program has now been stopped. But few months ago, the ministry stated that the NLA program supported “moderate combatants” who wanted to protect themselves against extremists, and that “stopping such programs” entailed the risk that “extremist groups would gain further strength”.

    MPs had been asking for access to information about the NLA program for years, but until now the Netherlands has kept the names of the supported groups secret. The specific type of vehicles that the Netherlands sent to Syria was also declared a state secret.

    Nieuwsuur and Trouw however discovered which groups were involved, and also which goods the Netherlands had delivered. They identified six specific brigades that had received Dutch support.

    One of these is the Jabhat al-Shamiya organisation, which is considered a terrorist group. Other groups that received Dutch support appear to have been guilty of serious human rights violations and cooperated with extremist groups despite many guarantees issued by the cabinet.

    The investigation also shows that the Netherlands supplied Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-max pick-up trucks to Syrian rebels, among other things. The Netherlands also sent uniforms, satellite telephones, laptops, mattresses, backpacks and cameras. The jihadists told Nieuwsuur and Trouw that they were very satisfied with the Dutch aid and that they were using the goods received by the Netherlands in the armed struggle.

    On video images that the rebel groups supported by the Netherlands put on their YouTube channels, you can see how they use the type of pick-up truck that the Netherlands supplied by attaching machine guns to and from the truck.

    The Netherlands has reportedly allocated over $80 million to the Syrian opposition groups, including to the Free Syrian Police and White Helmets, but the Public Prosecution Service declined to discuss the policy of Foreign Affairs.

    Foreign Affairs responded to questions about the aid: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes the messages from Nieuwsuur and Trouw very seriously, and the support to the moderate armed Syrian opposition was stopped in the spring of 2018. Our monitoring showed that the risks were too great, given the changed situation in Syria, we found the continuation not permitted.

    “The messages from Nieuwsuur and Trouw convinced us that stopping the support was the right decision.”

    The support for the opposition was set to end immediately, while White Helmets will be funded until the end of the year.

    The extent of Dutch support to actual terrorists in Syria may be more extensive than the latest research revealed, since the other recipients named in the government letter are equally questionable.

    Chemical attacks previously reported to have occurred in Syria were British fakes, pulled off with help from the White Helmets, Virginia state senator Richard Black told Al Mayadeen, an Arab news channel based in Beirut.

    The FSP too has been operating in Idlib, a province largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Last year, the BBC aired the Panorama program titled “Jihadis You Pay For” showing FSP officers that had to be approved by HTS henchmen to get enlisted into the “police force”.

    The UK Foreign Office suspended funding to the FSP through the AJACS program, ending it completely in August, RT reported.

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