A quick update to yesterday’s story about the brothers Abdelhamid (27) and Younes (13) Abaaoud, the latter being Belgium’s — and probably Europe’s — youngest foreign fighter in Syria. We have identified that same Abdelhamid in a video showing the removal of corpses after the mass execution that ISIS committed last month in Hraytan.
The video was obtained by the French magazine Paris-Match, and according to the article that was published online, it was filmed using Abdelhamid’s mobile phone. But it wasn’t he who made the images — that was the work of a friend. Paris-Match identified both Belgian fighters only by their aliases, Abou Omar and Abou Mehdi.
Abou Mehdi is easily recognizable by the G-Star hat visible on several portraits on his Facebook page. That mentions Brussels as his place of residence, but also that he has studied at the ‘Institut des Arts et Métiers de Pierrard’ in the rather remote Belgian-Luxembourg town of Virton. His real name seems to be Khaled Hachti Bernan. His birthday is October 30, but he doesn’t reveal his year of birth.
Abou Omar — seen behind the wheel of a Dodge towing several corpses and heard while joking: “You can film my trailer now” — is wearing the same sweater as in the video we posted yesterday of him, and the same pakol (an Afghan hat) as in the picture we found on his Facebook page. His ‘nom de guerre’ is Abou Omar Soussi, as we mentioned yesterday.
A third foreign fighter that appears in the video, seems to be Abou Yahya Beljiki — another Belgian member of ISIS. We’re not sure about his true identity, but one of his Facebook pictures can be seen here. The background of the image does resemble the luxurious villa near Aleppo where lots of the Belgian ISIS fighters were staying for several months.
Belgium’s youngest fighter in Syria appears to be only thirteen years old. Brussels born Younes Abaaoud was taken there by his older brother at the end of January. Abdelhamid (27) has joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and told his father by phone that Younes doesn’t take part in the war — despite pictures of him with a gun.
Father Omar, a Moroccan born shopkeeper living already about forty years in Belgium, revealed the fate of his sons yesterday in the Belgian newspaper ‘La Capitale‘. He described the youngest one as a boy who never showed signs of religious extremism, told about his fear that he never will see him again and that his third son too could decide to join the other two.
We managed to find the Facebook accounts of both brothers, learning more about them. Abdelhamid is using the alias ‘Abou Omar Soussi’, referring to his father’s name and the Souss region in Morocco where his family has it’s roots. His account is active since July 15 of last year, mentioning ISIS (“Dawla Islamiya fi L’Iraq wa Cham”) as affiliation and showing a picture of him in Syria with the comment: “Abou Omar the Belgian in the trenches”, posted on February 8, 2014.
Four days ago, he also linked to a video showing him during a fight, hosted by YouTube and also saved here. The part in which he appears, is titled “Message of Abou Omar Al-Belgiki from the land of the battles” and starts at 00:04:31. “Our enemy advances with tanks, heavy artillery and plenty of men”, he tells in French, “while we are only about fifty fighters, lacking artillery and most of us only armed with a kalashnikov. But we do have the mightiest weapon a man can have in the fight against the enemies of Allah.”
One of the people reacting in the following days, was his own sister Yasmin. “Apparently, you feel that your weapon won’t help against your enemies, who are much more numerous and well-equiped. Why don’t you leave that place?” His answer: “Those who read and understand the coran, know that military overweight doesn’t bring victory. Only Allah does. Most of the victories that muslims were given by Allah, were victories of a minority.”
Back in the video, Abdelhamid explains why it is making him happy to see the blood of infidels being spilled. “That’s because I had to watch my entire life television images of muslim blood being spilled. I pray that Allah will break the backs of those opposing him, their soldiers and their admirers, and exterminate them.” He also calls muslims from all over the world to come to Syria. “A muslim should only submit to Allah, while you are submitting to the infidels”, he says.
Younes seems to use a Facebook account under the alias ‘Abou Mansour’. Although the date of birth mentioned there — June 22, 1990 — cannot be right, there are several interactions indicating it is him. For example, when pictures of Younes with a gun are posted, his brother reacts: “Truly a man” and another European fighter states: “Truly a fighter.” It is ‘Abou Mansour’ who takes the credits by answering: “Thank you, brothers. May Allah bless you.” Probably he just wanted to look older than he really is, not so unusual for a teenager.
Also pointing in his direction is the fact that ‘Abou Mansour’ is active on Facebook since January 26 of this year, around the moment both brothers arrived in Syria. One of the images is showing Younes there in the company of another Belgian fighter, ‘Abu Houdaifa Ahmed’. He is one of the ‘Shariah4Belgium’ followers from Vilvoorde near Brussels who traveled to Syria — ending up in a group of Belgian and French ISIS fighters based in Hraytan near Aleppo. Last month, they were forced to move to Azaz, after which they were implicated in several cruelties such as beheadings.
During the past few days, three Belgian fighters reportedly were killed in Syria. All of them belonged to the radical ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Sham’ (ISIS). One of their women, back from Syria herself since only two months, learned about her husband’s fate yesterday evening by seeing a picture of his dead body on a friend’s Facebook account.
The wife of ‘Abu Muthanna’, one of the Belgian dead, saw his picture (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE) on the Facebook page of Hicham Chaïb (a.k.a. ‘Abu Haniefa’, a.k.a. ‘Muhajirien As Shaam’), the only remaining leader of Shariah4Belgium currently fighting in Syria. “My husband?” she reacted in panic. “Can anybody contact me please to tell what’s going on?”
Several hours later, still no visible answer was shown. It is unsure whether Hicham Chaïb is on the same spot where ‘Abu Muthanna’ had died, since Chaïb is mentioning Homs as his place of residence and the three Belgians were killed somewhere in between of Ar-Raqqah and Hasakah, according to the French ISIS fighter ‘Abu Abdillah Mujahid’ — who appears to be the original source of the picture that Chaïb has shared.
“On Tuesday, six of our people were killed in battles against the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar Al-Sham and Jabhat Al-Nusra near the village of Margada, two of them Belgians”, the Frenchman wrote. “On Wednesday seven, one of them from Belgium and another one from the Netherlands.” He didn’t mention any names, but apart from ‘Abu Muthanna’ and slain comrades from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Indonesia, he also posted a posthumous picture (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE) of an African man, telling the guy was a Belgian from Malian descent.
‘Oum Almuthanna’, as the woman mentioned above is calling herself, is a sister of Noureddine Abouallal (a.k.a. ‘Abou Mujahid’)— another member of the triumvirate that took over as leaders of Shariah4Belgium after the arrest of founder and public face Fouad Belkacem (a.k.a. ‘Abu Imran’). Abouallal was killed while fighting in Syria in July of last year (a video eulogy can be seen here) while his third colleague Feisal Yamoun (a.k.a. ‘Abu Faris’) has died there last month (video here). All of them were living in of near the Belgian city of Antwerp and share Moroccan roots.
In January, ‘Oum Almuthanna’ and Abouallal’s widow Tatiana Wielandt — a Flemish muslim convert — came back from Syria. They both appeared to be pregnant, and apparently they didn’t want to give birth in the midst of a vicious war. According to their parents, they got help from the Belgian authorities while traveling home. After their arrival, they were questioned by the police, but not arrested.
UPDATE: a partly French spoken video of the remains of ‘Abu Muthanna’ can be seen here — with a warning again for it’s graphic content.
In Spain and Morocco, authorities announced today the arrest of seven members of a recruiting network for jihad. The man considered to be the leader appears to be a Belgian born gypsy who converted from christianity to islam and boasted of his activities all over the internet.
Mustafá Maya Amaya (51) was arrested in Melilla, one of the Spanish exclaves on the coast of Morocco. There he lived in an appartment in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city, La Cañada de Hidum. He tried to rally his neighbors for the improvement of their living conditions with one of more than a dozen blogs that he managed — this one being a rare exception not dedicated to radical islam.
His Spanish identity card shows that he was born in the Belgian capital Brussels. Apparently, he has been living there for quite a while. On Facebook, where he’s using the alias ‘Abou Soufian Boussire‘, he mentioned ‘Pierre Boon’ as one of his former employers. A name that seems to refer to a well known Belgian firm active in event logistics such as the rental of tents. The company has been an official purveyor to the Belgian royal household.
According to another blog, his father Rafael was a Spanish gypsy and his mother Emilia of Castilian/Andalucian Spanish descent. He converted to islam more than sixteen years ago and being paralysed on the right side of his body, he’s confined to a wheelchair already for a decade. His parents were christians and before he converted to islam, his name reportedly was José Domínguez.
His radical religious views are known since 2001, when he was thrown out of a mosque in the southern Spanish city of Málaga for defending the Afghan taliban and attacking a fellow muslim who told him that Jews too have the right to exist. At that moment, Maya reportedly also admitted that he had served eight years in a Spanish jail for robbery and drug trafficking.
Those former encounters with the police didn’t teach him discretion though. He openly boasted of his activities as a recruiter for the jihad in countries such as Syria and Mali, giving detailed instructions for people wanting to fight and publishing entire conversations with his recruits on his blog ‘Ansar Tawhid‘ and his Google+ account with the user name ‘Abou Soufian Motamed’.
“I’ll show you a conversation with a young brother who I’ve helped to depart”, he wrote last month. The brother is using the alias ‘Ihƌb’ and appears to be a seventeen year old muslim living in the French capital Paris. At the start of their conversation in December 2013, apparently conducted via private messages on Facebook, he isn’t in Syria yet.
“There’s a little boy of fifteen years old that I know from Facebook but never have met”, the recruit is telling Maya. “He wants to join and asks me to pay for his flight to Turkey. Do you think it’s better to travel alone?” Maya confirms with a short “YES”, written in capitals. “Okay”, the French teenager replies, “In that case I’ll leave him home.”
At the end of January 2014, Frenchman ‘Ihƌb’ is in Syria. “I’m with Dawla for a month now”, he writes, meaning the extremist group ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Sham’ (ISIS). “Should I stay with them or switch to Jabhat Al-Nusra?” he asks . “If you have passed the training already, it’s better to stay”, Maya advises. “Then I have to go to Iraq with them”, the recruit replies.
‘Ihƌb’ explains he is part of a group with ten people from Strassbourg in France. “I probably know some of them”, Maya writes. “I did help people from there.” Then, they discuss the infighting between ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra — the official branch of Al Qaeda in Syria. Maya admits that he is sending fighters to both. “But it’s confusing now”, he says.
Nora Verhoeven (20), the Belgian woman who followed her husband Tarik Taketloune to Syria and allegedly witnessed him being killed, is trying to recruit new fighters now.
“Grab your weapon and come to Sham”, she calls upon her supporters in a new message that was published ‘friends only’ on her Facebook page. Immediately, two women from the Belgian city of Antwerp replied that they want to travel to Syria, but don’t know how. ‘Oum Khattab’ — as Verhoeven is calling herself — promised to pray that the two will find their way. “I had problems with the police, but that didn’t stop me reaching my goal”, she encouraged them.
Verhoeven also explicitely stated that she belongs to the radical ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Sham’ (ISIS) and posted a new video in which she can be seen while firing a kalashnikov from the window of a moving car. Her face is hidden behind a veil, but her comment reads: “Moi, fisabilillah” — meaning: “Me, for God’s sake”.
Two Belgian brothers of Chechen origin currently fighting in Syria are planning to come home and murder the recruiters who bring minors to war. “We will chop off their heads”, they promised their father — according to a nephew in Belgium.
Arbi and Imran are two brothers of Chechen origin who were living in Belgium before they went to Syria. Apparently they got some kind of military training in Chechnya, since their nephew posted a picture on his Facebook of them with other fighters, wearing camouflage suits in a snowy forest landscape. According to the nephew, the picture was taken several months before they started their jihad.
In Syria, they joined the militia of Sayfullakh Shishani, a Chechen commander who pledged allegiance to Jabhat Al-Nusra, the official branch of Al Qaeda in Syria. “Emir Sayfullakh was martyred by a stray bullet or shrapnel after retreating during the storming of Aleppo Central Prison earlier this month”, the nephew reported on his Facebook page. “Now the militia is led by a Chechen native named Mohammed Khorasani.”
The nephew is living near the Belgian city of Ghent and studying at the Karel De Grote Hogeschool in Antwerp. He started talking about the plans of the brothers after their father was arrested last week during a week long police operation against Syria recruiters in Belgium, mainly in the capital Brussels.
“My uncle is completely innocent”, he states. “The kafir will pay a high price for this injustice. We Chechens do not need to be recruited. If we can, we decide to go to Syria ourselves. And my nephews have promised their father to chop off the heads of those who are recruiting people under twenty years old. They wouldn’t say so if their father was one of them.”
“They saw quite a few of 16, 17 and 18 years old Belgian and Dutch shaheed die in front of their eyes. And they will avenge them, especially the Afghan, Turkish and Moroccan recruiters will see their heads separated from the rest of their bodies sooner than they can ever imagine — that is what they promised their father. Youngsters should not be brainwashed to go and fight there as they are not mature enough to understand the brutality of their enemies.”
Arbi and Imran asked their commander permission to leave the Syrian front for a few months in order to visit their father in jail. “He agreed, and my nephews will travel home through Turkey at the end of March”, it sounds. “May they keep their sacred Chechen word, Inch’Allah. In Syria, they already demonstrated the courage of the Chechen people by catching two Hizbullah fighters and killing one of them who tried to escape.”
At this point, we do not know the full identity of Arbi and Imran. But some cross-posting of messages and images on a number of related Facebook accounts seems to learn that the Belgian Syria fighter ‘Tchetchen Noxchi’ must be one of them. With all due reserve, we do publish two of the pictures certainly showing jihadi’s in Syria — and possibly both Arbi and Imran.
The widow of the Belgian Syria fighter Tarik Taketloune has posted new pictures showing herself training with a kalashnikov gun somewhere in Syria. In December of last year, we already reported she had taken up arms following the death of her man.
The last time Nora Verhoeven (20) — a.k.a. Oum Khattab — made headlines in the Belgian press, was after she allegedly was abducted by a hostile rebel group early this year. She was staying at that time near Aleppo with some other wives and widows of European ISIS fighters. At first, her family was informed that she had been killed by her kidnappers, as was another Belgian woman. But soon afterwards, the news came out that both survived and managed to escape.
It took Verhoeven some time to get back in touch with her followers in Belgium. But at the end of January, she liked a Facebook post of the Belgian account ‘Madjlis Shura Muhajirien’, while her own account disclosed she had started using Facebook for iPhone at the same day — clear signs of life. Then again, a long time of Facebook inactivity, until she posted four new pictures last weekend — as reported by the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ in it’s Tuesday’s edition exclusively.
Two of those pictures are showing Verhoeven inside a building, apparently the place where she is living now. She is covered completely and carrying a kalashnikov. The other images are taken outside, while Verhoeven is practicing with that same gun. It isn’t clear when the pictures were taken, but certainly she is handling another weapon than the Steyr assault rifle and the pistol she appeared with in the two videos mentioned above — that can be seen here and here.