Dutch Strip Four Jihadists of Citizenship

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The Netherlands has stripped four jihadist fighters of their Dutch nationality under tough new anti-terror legislation, a top minister announced Wednesday.

"These four persons have joined a terror organization in a conflict area," Safety and Justice Minister Stef Blok said in a statement.

"They have been declared undesirable aliens which means that it is no longer possible for them to travel to The Netherlands or any other Schengen country," Blok said, referring to Europe's passport-free zone.

Although Blok did not name the four men, Dutch media listed them as "known Syria travelers Driss B., Noureddin B., Anis Z. and Hatim R."

Driss B. and Noureddin B. were sentenced last year and Anis Z. and Hatim R. in 2015 to six years each in absentia for being members of a criminal terror organization.

The four had previously traveled to Syria to join jihadist fighters including the Islamic State group, local news reports said.

Their current whereabouts are unknown.

"This includes Driss B., who is doubted to still be alive," national news agency ANP reported.

The Netherlands in March approved tough new legislation that gives the government the power to take away citizenship, even if a person has not been convicted of a crime.

The law has been criticized by opposition parties including Prime Minister Mark Rutte's outgoing junior Labor coalition partner because it can only be applied to people with double nationality.

Wednesday's decision still has to be approved by a judge, the Dutch government said. It was not known what other nationality the four men hold.

Some 280 Dutch citizens are believed to have traveled to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq since 2011.

About 190 remain there but "there are probably still a number of Dutch jihadists who want to join the IS group or others in the Middle East," the Dutch anti-terror agency NCTV said in its latest report.

Although the country been spared from the wave of attacks that has hit some of its neighbors such as Belgium, France and Germany as well as other countries "jihadists regard The Netherlands as a legitimate target," the NCTV said.