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Chechens Arrested in Van Gogh Murder

Authorities have arrested two Chechen citizens in France and the Netherlands in connection with the November slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (search), prosecutors said Thursday.

One of the suspects was arrested May 18 in Tours, France, and was identified under Dutch privacy rules only as Bislan I., prosecution spokesman Rob Meulenbroek said. The second suspect, identified as Marad J., was arrested April 19 in Amsterdam.

Both are believed to have ties to a group of Islamic fundamentalists which prosecutors dubbed the Hofstad network, Meulenbroek said.

A 27-year-old Dutchman, Mohammed Bouyeri (search), is awaiting trial on a charge of murdering Van Gogh and belonging to the Hofstad network.

Van Gogh was shot and stabbed on an Amsterdam street Nov. 1. The filmmaker was an outspoken critic of the treatment of women under Islam and that was the subject of his last film "Submission." He also wrote a weekly newspaper column and hosted a TV talk show that he sometimes used to provoke and insult religious Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians.

The killer shot Van Gogh, then cut his throat and pinned a five-page note to his chest laced with religious ramblings and threats of further attacks on politicians in the name of radical Islam. The killing set off a wave of retaliatory attacks on Dutch mosques.

Bouyeri was arrested in a shootout with police minutes after the killing. At pretrial hearings, he has said he "wants to be held responsible for his actions," though he stopped short of a confession.

Prosecutors have said they believe Bouyeri had logistical support in carrying out the killing, but have not charged other suspects.

Meulenbroek said fingerprints of one Chechen suspect were found on a suicide note Bouyeri left and fingerprints of the other were found on a cassette tape Bouyeri recorded shortly before the killing.

"We're looking for an explanation of how those fingerprints came to be there, and also whether this is related to the murder of Van Gogh," Meulenbroek said.

Bislan I. will be extradited to the Netherlands within weeks, Meulenbroek said.

Separately, 12 other men were arrested in the month following Van Gogh's death for allegedly belonging to the Hofstad network. They face trial in Rotterdam. Lawyers for the men have said they are all innocent.

The Dutch secret service said several of the 12 Rotterdam suspects received weapons and bomb-making training in Chechnya (search), the breakaway Russian republic where Islamic rebels have been fighting for more than a decade for independence.