Shariah4Belgium fighters in Syria have started retaliation against former brothers in arms who went home and cooperated with the police, the Belgian daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reports today. The extremists published an incriminating video about such a ‘traitor’ and even say he beheaded several people.
23 years old Elias Taketloune was in Syria from November 2012 until May 2013. He came back after his wife had given birth to their first child at home — a son named Shaheed. Shortly after his arrival, he turned himself in to the police. In the first interrogations, he declared that he only had been active as a humanitarian worker in Syria. The certificate from the Syrian Red Crescent that he submitted as evidence however, turned out to be false. As a result of that, he’s not only indicted for leadership of a terrorist organization at the current trial against Shariah4Belgium in Antwerp, but for forgery too.
During his later interrogations, Taketloune admitted that he did participate in the armed struggle in Syria. “But only twice”, he said. “The first time, I was positioned in the back line, responsible for receiving the wounded. The second time, my job was to reload an anti-aircraft gun if needed. But it wasn’t used that day.” So, according to his own declarations, Taketloune has never fired a gun. “I even didn’t carry a kalashnikov”, he told. “I couldn’t afford it. I only had a hand gun.”
But the short video some of Taketloune’s former comrades brought out, proves that he was much more of a fighter than that. It shows Taketloune behind the wheel of a car, with a kalashnikov visible between his body and the driver’s door — clearly indicating that the weapon was his. Moreover, he tells to the camera: “We are fighting for the cause of Allah. We’re all here because there is no other God than he. And inch’allah, it will be all over the world. I swear, you hypocrites, we’re on our way to start with you!”
The video appeared a few days ago on the Facebook page of Houdaifa Ammi, a fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State coming from Taketloune’s hometown Vilvoorde, near the Belgian capital Brussels. He calls his former comrade by his fighter’s name ‘Abu Shaheed’ and seems to pay him great respect. “How many battlefields we’ve done together”, Ammi writes. “A lion in the front line.” Taketloune’s lawyer flatly denied the guy in the video is his client when asked for a reaction, but several other sources confirmed it certainly is Elias Taketloune.
In the meantime, heavier charges were added to the video. “Abu Shaheed was a good shooter”, another Belgian fighter in Syria — Abdelmajid Gharmaoui, also indicted at the trial in Antwerp — reacted shortly after the movie was posted. “It has always been his dream to perform a martyr’s operation and I do remember his first decapitation in Sheikh Soleyman, after he drew the long straw.” Whether this last allegation is true, it is difficult to say. As far as we know, the Belgian judiciary hasn’t any evidence that Taketloune committed crimes like that. His name isn’t mentioned on the list of Shariah4Belgium people that can be tried for murders at a later stage, and he’s awaiting his sentence as a free man.
The fact that sympathizers of the Syria fighters from Vilvoorde already have tried to sell the video of Taketloune to several Belgian media — an offer ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ refused — indicates an orchestrated campaign. Those sympathizers consider Taketloune as a traitor because he talked to the police. By bringing out the video, they hope to contribute to a heavier sentence for him. Recently, a similar thing has happened to Jejoen Bontinck, another returnee from Syria who cooperated with the police. He was accused of having executed a Syrian soldier in a Facebook post coming from the extremist circles he once belonged to himself.
The latest story of a Belgian citizen trying to join the Islamic State, seems to reveal a controversial swap by the Turkish government. According to a list that is widely circulating now, the Belgian was caught on his way to Syria. But Turkey exchanged him with IS as part of the deal about the Turkish hostages that recently were set free.
Johan Castillo Boens (35) isn’t the average Belgian fighter within IS. He is the son of a retired professor at the chemistry department of Leuven University, whose wife comes from the Philippines. They raised their son as a christian, but Johan converted to islam several years ago after some serious personal troubles. Nowadays, he is married with a woman from the Philippines himself. They have five children, of which the youngest one was born in June of this year. His wife was also a christian, but has followed him into islam.
According to his mother, Johan didn’t manage to find a decent job, although he has studied business management and took additional courses in IT. “Because he is half Philippino, he looks a bit like a foreigner”, she is quoted today in the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. “And letting his beard grow, made things only worse. We often tried to convince him to shave off that beard. It isn’t necessary that everyone can see you’re a muslim, we told. But he didn’t want to listen. Recently, he spoke about moving to Jordania and in August he left to search there for a job.”
At least, that was what he told. Two separate sources informed us this week that Johan went to Turkey instead, trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. According to the first source, his name is on a list of several European IS supporters that were recently caught by the Turkish police. The second told us that he was in Turkey indeed about fortnight ago, but since has crossed the Syrian border. Caught or gone to Syria? That seems to be a contradiction. But both sources say they have indications that Johan was part of a shadowy deal.
At least one other man — a Briton, we are told — was mentioned on the same list, but has joined IS in Syria now. It is thought that Turkey has handed them over to IS as a part of the exchange that has set 49 Turkish hostages free, including the staff of the Turkish consulate in Mosul. According to the Turkish press, there has been such a swap indeed. But until now, it was thought Turkey only persuaded the Syrian resistance movement Liwa al-Tawheed to hand over some of their IS detainees, but didn’t release anyone itself. The fate of Johan Castillo Boens possibly can prove otherwise. If he really is in Syria now after being detained by the Turkish authorities, Ankara will have to explain a few things.