Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Theo Van Gogh

Mohommad Bouyeri

Mohammed Bouyeri
Mohammed Bouyeri

Mohammed Bouyeri was born in West Amsterdam on March 8, 1978. He was the only son of four siblings born to his Moroccan immigrant parents. As a youth, Bouyeri studied hard and made good grades in school. According to a November 28, 2004 Washington Post article by Glen Frankel, Bouyeri's primary interest was accounting, which he studied for five years at Mondriaan Lyceum. Thereafter, he entered a higher-education technical institute south of Amsterdam in the town of Diemen, where he studied business and IT. However, after several years he dropped out of school, failing to complete his degree.

According to Frankel, Bouyeri "spent a lot of time hanging out on the streets" of Amsterdam and at some point "was arrested and imprisoned for seven months" for a violent crime. It is believed that during his incarceration, Bouyeri immersed himself in the teachings of Islam. After his release, Bouyeri began volunteer work at the Stichting Eigenwijks neighborhood center in Amsterdam. reported that he worked hard setting up group activities for area youths and also assisting the "editorial team of the neighborhood newspaper Over 't Veld." He was well liked by his colleagues and was considered by many to be a pleasant and clever young man. However, problems began to surface at work when Bouyeri underwent a radical transformation.

Toby Sterling suggested in a November 2004 Associated Press article that Bouyeri's abrupt change was likely prompted by his interest in politics and the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. It was reported in the article that Bouyeri "grew radical after the death of his mother from cancer in fall 2002."  Sterling further stated that he began "wearing traditional Muslim dress" and attending services at the Al-Tawhid mosque, "where key Sept. 11 hijackers and plotters had reportedly met, including Mohamed Atta."

Bouyeri steadily distanced himself from his work and colleagues. Eventually, he completely stopped his volunteer work at the Stichting Eigenwijks. It is unclear if he took on a new job but what is known is that he devoted a large portion of his daily life to religious activities after he left the organization.

Schiphol Airport security guard
Schiphol Airport security guard

Bouyeri formed new friendships at this time with other men who shared similar extremist views. One person who Bouyeri befriended was Samir Azzouz, 18, an Islamic fundamentalist who was arrested in the Netherlands for plotting bomb attacks on Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and the Dutch Parliament, reported in a November 3, 2004 article. Bouyeri was believed to also have formed friendships with other dangerous Islamic extremists who were under watch by the government. Surprisingly, despite his connections with Islamic militants who were allegedly under heavy surveillance, Sterling claimed that Bouyeri managed to avoid being added to the "terror watch list."

Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders

During this time, Bouyeri also joined a militant Islamic group known as the Hofstad Network. Syrian-born geologist turned spiritual leader, Redouan al-Issar, 43, also known to use the alias "Abu Kaled," headed the group. Even though Bouyeri's first known act of terrorism in association with the Hofstad Network was the murder of Theo Van Gogh, it is believed that he and the group were also in the process of plotting even more assassinations. The group's suspected targets included Ayaan Hirsi Ali and right-wing conservative MP Geert Wilders who, according to an October 2004 article, is known to be "unashamedly anti-Islam."


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