The drug conflict in the Netherlands [EN]

3 November 2019

This image of a bullet-ridden Range Rover in the Staatsliedenbuurt has become the symbol of the underworld war in Amsterdam. (ANP)

On September 18, the Netherlands was shocked by the murder of Derk Wiersum, the lawyer of a crown witness in a major case against a criminal organization. [1] The murder was the last in a series of liquidations since the start of a drug conflict in 2012. The cause of this conflict was a disappearance of cocaine, which led to rivalry between two groups and retaliations. [2] It escalated on December 29, 2012 when in the Staatsliedenbuurt Benaouf A., Youssef Lkhorf and Saïd el Yazidi arrive in a black Range Rover for a meeting. They park the car and walk through the neighborhood until they are suddenly shot at from 2 cars. Benaouf A., the alleged target, manages to escape by jumping into the water, but his 2 friends were less lucky and are brutally executed after a short chase. [3] In the neighborhood there are dozens of bullet casings from the automatic firearms that were used and several bullets have hit homes and cars, including the Range Rover in which Saïd tried to flee in vain. Moments later motorcycle policemen see one of the two cars used in the murders, and start a chase. At a crossroads, the car brakes unexpectedly and people inside the car start to fire at the police officers, who fell onto the road while bullets pierced their motorbikes. The policemen were fortunately unharmed. [4]

In the years that followed, several controversial events followed, such as the liquidation of the girlfriend of a criminal who was shot close to her family [5], a spectacular attempt to rescue Benaouf A. from prison with a helicopter, [6], a severed head that was placed in front of a shisha lounge [7] and the liquidation of the brother of Nabil B. at the beginning of 2018. [8] The liquidations are not limited to the Netherlands, they also took place in Belgium, Spain and Morocco. [9]

A characteristic of this conflict is that most liquidations are carried out by young men with little 'experience'. This sometimes results in reckless shooting with bullets flying everywhere. [10] In addition, several people have also been killed in 'mistake liquidations' [11], such as Hakim Changachi. The previously mentioned crown witness Nabil B. had arranged the escape vehicle, and was put in a difficult situation since he had known Hakim and his family for a long time. Nabil B. decided to go to the police and become a crown witness, much to the dismay of his former client Ridouan Taghi. Ridouan Taghi is currently the Netherlands' most wanted criminal and has earned tens of millions with drug trafficking. [12] Yet he remained under the radar for a long time, he does not even have a criminal record [13], until he came into the picture as the client of multiple liquidations. A week after it became known that Nabil B. was going to testify against the group of Ridouan Taghi his brother was liquidated, and recently his lawyer as well. It is not known where Ridouan Taghi is, but the authorities assume that he is abroad. [14] Meanwhile, the charges are expanding, Ridoaun Taghi is suspected of being involved in 20 liquidations [15] and also be the client for liquidations carried out by the motorcycle gang Caloh Wagoh. [16]

Despite additional commitments after the liquidation of Derk Wiersum [17], the question remains whether it will be enough to turn the tide. The Netherlands has been an attractive country for drug criminals for decades due to its good infrastructure, excellent economy and low punishments. [18] It will never succeed in stopping the entire drug trade in the Netherlands, and laws to legalize more drugs in the Netherlands will only have a limited effect as the Netherlands is primarily an transit country for drugs in Europe. However, a tougher approach will be needed to prevent this kind of outburst of violence and to reduce the influence that drug criminals have on the Netherlands.

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