Life sentence: Amsterdam street killers head to prison
With reporting by Zack Newmark.
Anouar 'Popeye' B. and Adil 'Klinker' A. were sentenced to life imprisonment Friday morning by the court in Amsterdam. The court considered it proven that they are guilty of the double assassination of Youssef Lkhorf and Saïd el Yazidi in the city's Staatsliedenbuurt neighborhood on December 29, 2012.
The sentence matched the demand of the prosecution, who included in their case forensic evidence supporting allegations that the pair killed their victims, attempted to gun down a third, and shot automatic weapons at police attempting to put an end to the violence.
"There are two young people brutally murdered. They had to run for their lives until finally being shot in the head in an extremely cold-blooded manner," the court wrote in one ruling. "A great and irreparable pain and loss was inflicted on the relatives. They do not know why their loved ones have been killed. The impressive statements they made at the hearing speak their grief."
Suspected criminal, Benaouf A., believes he was the target of the assassination, and was with Lkhorf and El Yazidi at the time. He narrowly managed to escape by jumping into the water between two houseboats. "He testifies to the bullets that whizzed past his ears, while he dealt with agonizing stress," the ruling points out.
The two motorcycle cops were not hit with bullets, with one pulling his motorcycle to the ground at the time of shooting for protection. Several bullets fired from a Kalashnikov struck the bike, the prosecution stated. "It is a miracle that they survived. The ruthless manner in which the defendant and his co-perpetrators fired upon the officers characterizes their chilly and extremely violent behavior," the court said in one ruling.
"All this resulted in terrifying scenes for many local residents. The bullets went flying around the neighborhood," the court said. It was sheer luck nobody else was killed in the event, because the defendants took no action to prevent bystanders from getting killed, one of the rulings states.
The suspects consistently denied that they had anything to do with the violence. Telephone records used as evidence suggested otherwise, and traces of Anouar B.'s DNA in one of the getaway cars.
A third suspect, Stefan S., was acquitted of involvement with the murder, but convicted on a lesser charge. The court sentenced him to time served for weapon possession, while also acknowledging he could not be considered the owner of the AK-47 he had when arrested.
"This automatic weapon is an extremely dangerous firearm, and its use leads to disastrous consequences, as actually shown on December 29, 2012," the ruling said. Because of the publicity around the case linking Stefan S. to the shootout, and the fact that he lost his home as a result of the proceedings, the court said his punishment was severe enough as is.
Benaouf A., who escaped death in the incident, was himself sentenced to ten years in prison for the murder of Najeb Bouhbouh in Antwerp. The attack in Staatsliedenbuurt was possibly revenge for that murder.
The gang war that has raged in Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands since 2012 is likely related to a shipment of cocaine lost in the port of Antwerp.