Is the Dutchman that was named this week as chief of the prison where James Foley was held in Aleppo, in the meantime executed himself? That seems very likely, as pointed out today in Belgium’s largest daily newspaper, ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. That source, by the way, should be explicitly mentioned when reporting about what is told below.
It is Jejoen Bontinck (19), a former foreign fighter from the Belgian city of Antwerp, who revealed that Foley’s prison near Aleppo was led by a Dutchman at that time. Bontinck was imprisoned there for a while together with Foley because he wanted to leave and his former comrades concluded that he was a spy — as mentioned earlier. Belgium’s federal prosecution office and GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni — for which Foley was working in Syria — confirmed the fact that Bontinck shared a cell with the US journalist beheaded last week by the Islamic State (IS).
The true identity of the Dutchman isn’t known, but reportedly he’s using the alias Abu Ubaida al-Maghribi, indicating that he has Moroccan roots. A man with the same ‘nom de guerre’ recently was executed by the Islamic State. Beheaded, according to several sources, while others reported that he was shot. The Jordanian news site al-Kawn published the story with the picture of a dead body that is shown above — without mentioning explicitly that it is the executed Abu Ubaida al-Maghribi, though.
It it isn’t sure that the two Abu Ubaidas are one and the same, since the name is rather common at the Syrian front. But the executed man was described as the security chief of the Islamic State in the region of Aleppo, which seems to fit with supervising the prison there. Remarkably, his execution was announced one day after the video of Foley’s beheading was posted on the internet. And the reason of his punishment also suggests that he has been involved in the imprisonment of Westerners.
According to most news reports, the Islamic State suspected him of passing secret information to a foreign intelligence service — of a European country that had a hostage in the hands of the Islamic State together with Foley, to be precise. It is known already that the militants who guarded Foley were allowed to negotiate themselves with Western authorities about the conditions for a release. They only needed permission of Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi, the highest leader of IS, for setting someone free in case an agreement was reached. So, it is very well possible that the alleged betrayal happened in the course of those talks with the West.
The Abu Ubaida that was executed, is described as having been one of the most powerful men within the Islamic State. Reportedly, he was responsible for the assassination of Abu Khalid al-Suri, the highest commander of the somewhat less extremist salafist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham. That occured last February and contributed to the vicious war within the Syrian resistance between the Islamic State — at that point still known as ISIS — and most of the rest.
An additional clue that the executed Abu Ubaida and Foley’s prison chief from the Netherlands were the same, can be found in a recent interview done by Souad Mekhennet for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She met a man described as “one of the few with direct access to al-Baghdadi”, the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State. The man with whom Mekhennet spoke, was a security chief of IS near the border with Turkey, most likely meaning the governorate of Aleppo.
He used another alias — Abu Yusaf — but Mekhennet explicitly mentioned that he had several pseudonyms. His parents are North African, but he was born in one of the countries together known as Benelux: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. At the age of 18, he went to Iraq and joined the terrorist group of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — which is in fact the predecessor of the Islamic State. Mekhennet understandably declined to tell us whether ‘Abu Yusaf’ is Dutch, and said she doesn’t know whether he is the Aleppo security chief that recently was executed.