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Dutch police arrest alleged commander in Syrian Nusra Front

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch police have arrested a 47-year-old Syrian suspected of being a commander for the Nusra Front, formerly al Qaeda’s wing in Syria, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The man, identified by his nom-de-guerre Abu Khuder, is accused of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria, where he allegedly commanded a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan, or Strangers of Mohassan.

Dutch war crimes prosecutors said the suspect had been in the Netherlands since 2014, where he was granted a temporary asylum permit. A criminal investigation against him was started based on witness testimonies provided by German police.

In a coordinated action with German police, six residences of other suspected members of the Ghuraba’a Mohassan battalion in Germany were also searched on Tuesday, the prosecutors said.

Abu Khuder will appear before a judge in The Hague on Friday.

Under Dutch law, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on foreign soil can be prosecuted under universal jurisdiction if a suspect resides in the Netherlands.

The latest incarnation of the Nusra Front, which was part of al Qaeda until 2016, is Tahrir al-Sham. An amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra, it is currently the most powerful armed group in Syria’s northwest.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, editing by Bart Meijer, Editing by William Maclean)

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