THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The killers of an outspoken Dutch filmmaker threatened his scriptwriter — a politician who renounced Islam and has criticized its customs — in a letter that was pinned to the victim's body with a knife.
Authorities have arrested nine suspected Muslim extremists in connection with Tuesday's shooting and stabbing of Theo van Gogh (search) and are looking into possible links between the suspects and foreign terrorist groups.
Prosecutors on Friday said they considered the crime an act of terrorism and would try the chief suspect — identified as Mohammed B. — as a terrorist.
Chief Amsterdam prosecutor Leo de Wit said the suspect will face five counts, including murder and "participating in a criminal organization with terrorist characteristics." Mohammed B. was to be arraigned later Friday behind closed doors.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said Thursday that a letter pinned to Van Gogh's body was "a direct warning" to Dutch member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali (search). The Somali-born lawmaker wrote the script of a film Van Gogh made criticizing the treatment of women under Islam, and Van Gogh received death threats after the film was released in August.
Hirsi Ali, who has renounced the Muslim faith of her birth, has frequently outraged Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways.
Donner said the five-page letter, which was neatly typed and written in Dutch and Arabic, appears to be "not from one person, but a movement."
Titled "Open Letter to Hirsi Ali," it threatens Jihad, or Islamic holy war, against "infidels" everywhere, particularly in America, Europe and the Netherlands.
"Saifu Deen alMuwahhied," apparently a signature, is written at the bottom of the last page.
"It is worrying because it gives the impression that it is not the message of an individual, but a wider organization," Donner said. Security has been increased for individuals considered possible targets, including Hirsi Ali and members of her right-wing party, he said.
"Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs," said the letter, which contained apparent quotes from the Quran and verses of poetry. "Only the death will separate the truth from the lies," it said.
A separate testament found Mohammed B.'s pocket was titled "Drenched in blood" and said "these are my last words."
Mohammed B., 26, holds dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality. He was arrested after being wounded in the leg during a shootout with police shortly after the slaying and was to appear before a judge Friday, when prosecutors said they would file charges.
It was not clear what charges the other eight suspects, all of North African descent, would face.
Mohammed B.'s lawyer, Jan Peter Plasman, protested the release of the letter, saying it would prejudice the case against his client. He declined to comment on whether his client was innocent.
A Moroccan diplomat has traveled to the Netherlands to assist in the investigation, and more than 75 detectives have been put on the case, Dutch officials said.
Authorities described Mohammed B. as "an associate" of five men who were briefly detained last year, prosecutors said.
The five were suspected of providing support to terrorists in Spain and Morocco who were responsible for the bombing in Casablanca in May 2003, Donner told parliament at the time.
But there was insufficient evidence and the five were released.
Four of them were among those arrested this week. The fifth was Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old of Moroccan descent who was arrested in June and is awaiting trial for allegedly planning to attack a Dutch airport, nuclear reactor or Parliament.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the Dutch secret service has repeatedly warned that the Netherlands could be a target. It is shadowing 150 extremists around the clock and has said that Muslim immigrant youths are being recruited.
The Dutch public has widely perceived Van Gogh's killing as an attack on free speech. Politicians have called for an emergency debate on security officials' failure to prevent it.
Van Gogh, a distant relative of the painter Vincent Van Gogh (search), will be cremated on Tuesday in a public service.