The Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reports today about Mohammed C. — a Belgian-Moroccan father who took his whole family to the Syrian war. He pushed his mentally unstable son into the fighting, while he forced his minor daughter to marry an Algerian commander of Islamic State.
On October 6, 2013, a family of six took a plane at Charleroi airport with destination Turkey. That they didn’t leave for a vacation was proven by their one way tickets, the fact that their home had been re-rented and most of their possessions were sold. Mohammed C. had been in contact with radical muslims longtime already, and most of his acquaintances apparently knew that he wanted to move to Syria.
His wife, Maria G. — a woman from Italian descent who calls herself ‘Fatiha’ since being converted — largely agreed with that plan. During later interrogations, she told about her intent to stay in Turkey with her three daughters, while her husband and her son would travel on to Syria. But the Belgian judiciary casted doubt upon her declaration that her husband finally forced all of them to cross the Turkish-Syrian border and settle near the northern city of Aleppo.
After their arrival, Mohammed hastened to carry out his plans. “They were only a few days at place, when he started to push his teenage daughter H. to marry a local ISIS emir”, it is noted in the judgment of a terrorism trial that was held in Brussels last July. The Algerian born commander was 27, while the daughter was barely 16. “She agreed to the marriage”, the judgment states, “because she feared that any other choice of her father would be worse.”
The mother remained with her two younger daughters in an apartment that they hardly ever could leave. “They lived there like recluses, on the rhythm of their prayers, and in constant fear for the war that happened outside.” Father Mohammed and son Rachid meanwhile presented themselves as fighters. But for the latter, it likely didn’t happen voluntarily, since he was diagnosed as a mentally unstable young man.
Apparently, the son was used for the dirtiest jobs. According to his sister, who saw him only every now and then, he was forced to risk his own life during the battles by collecting the corpses of fellow fighters who were killed. Soon already, mother and daughters wanted to leave, but father Mohammed resisted to that. Only after daughter H. got pregnant, he allowed her a journey to Turkey. From there, she traveled back to Belgium, soon followed by her mother and her two sisters.
Nothing is known about the current situation of the teenage girl and her baby that should be born. But her father, her mother and her brother are convicted now. At the trial against a Brussels based cell of recruiters — to which the well known Abdelhamid Abaaoud also belonged — Mohammed was sentenced to ten years in jail for leadership of a terrorist group. Son Rachid got ten years for membership of that group, while mother Maria got two years with probation for the same crime. She was present in court, while her husband and her son were tried in absentia.
About Rachid, nothing has been heard recently. Certain is that he didn’t join his father when Mohammed left Islamic State in May, 2014. That was about a month after the departure of his wife and his daughters. Mohammed switched to the brigade of Bassam Ayachi, the self styled ‘Cheikh’ from Molenbeek that once was named a key figure in nearly every Belgian jihadist plot. Nowadays, Ayachi holds a much more moderate profile, and he even fights against Islamic State. Mohammed himself is still active on social media, where he posts paintings and poems that he has made in Syria.
Mohammed Chourouhou (50), a Belgian fighter within the former islamist militia ‘Suqur as-Sham’, has posted recent footage from Idlib on his Facebook page.
“The city is completely liberated now”, Chourouhou wrote yesterday morning. “But lots of people are starting to flee because they fear bombardments and even chemical attacks by the Syrian regime.”
One of the people who are visible in the video and the slideshow of stills Chourouhou has shared, is sheikh Bassam Ayachi (68) — easy recognisable by his white beard, the sword he is carrying, and the fact he is missing an arm. Syrian born Ayachi has for years been based in Brussels, where he was considered as a central figure in several terrorist plots.
But after joining Suqur as-Sham and losing his son Abdel Rahman in the Syrian war, he turned himself openly against the recruitment of western fighters. He also came into conflict with ‘Islamic State’, the terrorist group that several of his Belgian admirers now have joined.
Last month, Ayachi was hit by a terrorist attack himself. A bomb that reportedly was planted under his car, did cost him his arm. But last week, it was announced he has recovered and started to work as an islamic judge in rural Idlib again.
Also visible in the footage is Ayachi’s long time Belgian trustee Olivier Dassy (39). Nicknamed ‘Hamza Talha’, he’s the one explaining in French what will be done with all the confiscated goods. Mohammed Chourouhou himself can bee seen in the montage of stills at minute 00:00:23, wearing a khaki shirt.