Thief's death fans Dutch race tensions

The death of a man with Moroccan roots who was run over by a woman after he stole her bag has inflamed Dutch racial tensions.

    Mosques and churches have become targets for attacks

    Several hundred people, including many Moroccans, marched on Friday from the site in an immigrant neighbourhood in Amsterdam where the 19-year-old died on Monday. The woman whose bag he stole drove her car into his moped, crushing him against a tree.

    The friends and family of the youth, named by the media as Ali al-Bajjati, say his death was a racially motivated murder. Two months ago, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was killed in the same district, allegedly by a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan.

    The story has been front-page news all week in the Netherlands, home to about one million Muslims, more than a quarter of Moroccan descent. De Telegraaf daily said on Friday it was the man's own fault.

    Controversial filmmaker Theo


    Gogh was killed on 2 November

    Geert Wilders, an anti-immigration politician whose popularity has soared since Van Gogh was murdered, called for the government to strip criminals with dual citizenship of their Dutch nationality.

    "Arresting the woman makes the victim the criminal and the criminal a victim. It's turning the world on its head," he said.

    Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was forced on Friday to defend Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who said the woman had not committed murder and the death would never have happened if the youth had not stolen the bag. A placard reading "Verdonk, murderess" was placed at the site of the death.

    Van Gogh's murder on 2 November triggered a series of attacks on mosques and churches and a wave of death threats against politicians, including Verdonk and Wilders, shattering the Netherlands' reputation for tolerance.

    The woman, who prosecutors want to charge for manslaughter, was released on Thursday pending further investigations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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