Hague gang hiding out in Morocco

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"My parents know where I am and why I left and so does the rest of my family. They were angry, but I will always be their son and they rather know that I am far away but free, than that I am close-by but in prison."

Words from 22-year-old "Chalid", the pseudonym for a former member of the 'Beresteinlaangroep', a gang of young Moroccans that police in The Hague busted three months ago. Chalid, like others in the gang fled the country; he spoke to Trouw newspaper today about why he left.

He spoke on a public phone from Morocco, insisting that his name be kept secret, out of fear of being traced by police or being branded "snitch" by his fellow gang members.

Several members of the 'Beresteinlaangroep' went underground, after police hit their gang hard in January. The gang reportedly terrorized southwest The Hague with burglaries, assault, intimidations and nuisance.

Chalid refuses to believe that he may not be on the police radar. "We didn't run for nothing. We know the cops are on a war path, so we're taking it easy for now," he said, telling the newspaper that he might come back to the Netherlands when the smoke clears.

He said he feels comfortable in Morocco, like it's vacation. Relatives there had been told beforehand that he was heading their way, so they were not surprised when an older cousin drove him by car from the Netherlands and dropped him off. "They welcomed me with open arms. Of course I had brought gifts. The first couple of days after the arrests I was in a bit of stress, but once I got here I found peace," he said.

The 'Beresteinlaangroep' members who fled to Morocco all have dual nationality, which practically keeps them out of reach of Dutch authorities. Morocco does not extradite citizens and only in extreme situations would the country arrest and prosecute people branded suspect by a foreign nation. A tedious process that frustrates Dutch authorities, Trouw reports.

Not all of the gang members fled for Morocco. "Maybe about five or ten of us, but we don't know about each other. You cannot spill what you don't know".

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