From Grozny to Raqqah with stopover Brussels – The ‘Eastern Contingent’ of Belgian foreign terrorist fighters

The latest update of our database on Belgian foreign terrorist fighters added a significant number of Russian sounding names. People rooted in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are still a small minority — but worth a closer look.

By Pieter Van Ostaeyen & Guy Van Vlierden

Belgian authorities have started to disclose identities of foreign terrorist fighters who weren’t prosecuted yet, forced to do so in order to freeze their assets. Using a law from 2006, they can only impose “specific measures against certain people and entities in the fight against the financing of terrorism” when the names are published in the official journal ‘Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur belge’.

That has happened now for 251 individuals[1], and a well-informed security source confirmed to us that all of them are “related to the current foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon”. These disclosures have enabled us to fill a lot of blanks — or more precise: anonymous records in our own database. That consists of 621 individuals now, with a somewhat broadened definition as the one we earlier used — see below.

About 30 people seem to have roots in the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. 22 are certainly of Russian descent – including 12 from Chechnya, 4 from Kalmykia (including two children), 2 from Ingushetia, 1 from Dagestan and 1 from Kabardino-Balkaria. Furthermore, 2 have roots in Kosovo, 1 in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and 1 in Albania.

It may be small, this ‘Eastern contingent’, but it is likely underestimated too. It is extremely difficult to investigate, as was proven at the trial of some people belonging to what seems the most important ‘Eastern’ network in Belgium. In December 2016, the main defendant Chalil Man, pictured here in court, was sentenced to ten years in jail for being its leader. But at the trial in appeal in June 2017 even his identity wasn’t certain anymore.

“The defendant was known under the aliases Darra, Mohmad, Abdul Azis and Umar”, the written verdict states. “And his real identity is very doubtful, since an authentic Russian passport was found with the picture of the defendant and the name of Magomed Saidov, born on the 29th of April 1964. But possibly this name is also false.”[2] That uncertainty however didn’t prevent the court to raise Chalil Man’s sentence to twelve years.

At the trial, Man was described as an example of the people “who are the liveblood of the harrowing conflicts taking place now in Syria and Iraq”.[3] He was identified as a veteran of the jihad, often bragging about his experiences in Pakistan. He went to Syria himself in the early days of the war, but soon came back to act as a recruiter and an organizer. In order to facilitate the travel of fighers, he even bought an apartment in the Turkish town of Körfez.[4]

Man recruited for the Sunni Islamist militia Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa’l-Ansar (JMA), it was told, and he followed its leader Tarkhan Batirashvili – a citizen from Georgia with an ethnic Chechen background, better known as Abu Omar as-Shishani – when the latter joined Islamic State. “He acted as a leader of JMA abroad”, court documents state about Man, and his apartment has provided shelter to notorious people such as Aslan Sigauri, once named by Russia as one of the 52 most dangerous rebels in the Northern Caucasus.[5]

Chalil Man was also linked to Tourchaev Khassanbek, a man arrested in Greece on the 27th of January 2014 while he tried to cross the Turkish border with some military equipment. Khassanbek is listed as a foreign terrorist fighter in France[6] and apparently lived in Lingolsheim near the city of Strasbourg. During his many travels back and forth between Belgium and Turkey, Chalil Man even visited Malaysia once for a stay of only five days.

Undated image of Tourchaev Khassanbek

The network led by Chalil Man has all the characteristics that seem typical for the recruitment efforts in the Russian and Eastern European Muslim communities in Belgium. All of it is happening independently from other local organizations, where people with a Chechen background for instance are extremely rare. We know only one in the two major networks: Magomed Saralapov, a Shariah4Belgium recruit who was present at the foundation of Islamic State.[7] The so-called Zerkani network apparently has none.

Magomed Saralapov in Syria in 2014

Most of the Eastern contingent’s networks seem to operate in a very covert manner. They do not expose themselves with propaganda, as Shariah4Belgium did — and even its individual members rarely show themselves off on social media, as many Zerkani followers did. And if they do so, they are still protected by a language barrier. An example of that is the ‘Islamsko Romani Dawetsko Organizacija Belgija’ (IRDO-Belgija), an Islamist group within the Romani gypsy community.

That organization was put in the spotlights in 2013 already, when we exposed it as a platform for jihadist preachers from the Balkans.[8] A lot of its activity was openly announced and shown in YouTube videos. But because all communication happened in languages such as Albanian and Bosnian, it was difficult to assess – and only in December 2016 a series of arrests made clear that at least one member – the ethnic Kosovar Mahid Dibrani – had been fighting in Syria.[9]

Screenshot from an IRDO-Belgija video from 2012

Another characteristic of the Eastern networks is that they are very much spread throughout Europe. More than the major jihadist networks in Belgium, it seems — where the top of course has international connections, but people at the lower levels significantly less. The transnational orientation of the Eastern network is likely caused by the limited size of its respective communities, resulting in a more intense cross-border interaction not only in jihadist circles.

Jihadists of Chechen origin in Belgium quite often are  connected with like-minded Chechens in Austria, for instance. A recent example is Adam Abdulkhadzhiev, a Chechen native who had lived in Belgium since he was eleven years old. He married a woman of Chechen descent twelve years his senior in the Austrian town of Baden and planned to leave with her for Syria, it appeared when both were arrested by the Austrian police in the fall of 2016.[10]

An older case in which Chechens from Belgium and Austria were involved, was that of an Antwerp based group arrested in 2010. As an exception, it was made up of Moroccans and Chechens, recruiting for jihad and also plotting an attack “bigger than that in Madrid” – a reference to the March 2004 bombing in which 191 people died – intercepted phone calls learned.[11] One of the defendants was Aslambek Idrisov, a Chechen living in the Austrian town of Neunkirchen.

At the first trial in 2012, Idrisov was acquitted. But in 2014 he was sentenced on appeal to seven years in jail.[12] In 2008, Idrisov had been arrested in Sweden already while traveling in a car that was loaded with weapons. He was in the company of fellow Chechen Akhmad Chatayev.[13] That same Akhmad Chatayev was identified in 2015 as the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion, a Chechen faction of Islamic State,[14] and in 2016 he was named as mastermind of the Istanbul airport attack in which 44 people died.[15]

From a lot of ‘Easterners’ whose names are now on the official list of Belgian foreign terrorist fighters, very little is publicly known. That is the case with 70 year old Danga Youssoupger, a Chechen interviewed by a Belgian newspaper in 2007 about his work as a horticulturalist in a social project in Antwerp[16] — and with Bisera Gerasimovska, an 18 year old girl from Macedonia who told on social media a few years ago that her life in Belgium was “super cool”. Up till now, we have no clue about what has brought these people into jihad.

Bisera Gerasimovska on social media in 2011

An intriguing case is that of Ramzan Makhauri and Islam Borchashvili, who were reported missing back in 2010 while traveling together on a train from Belarus to Moscow[17], and now have their assets frozen in Belgium. The same goes for Aslan Chamutaev, who came back in Belgium in May 2013 after being arrested in Greece and threatened with extradition to Russia[18] – a move he could reportedly avoid thanks to interference by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.[19]

There are also ‘Easterners’ in our database of Belgian foreign fighters who haven’t appeared yet on official lists. An example is Denis Pershin, a native of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic within the Russian Federation, arrested there in December 2015. He reportedly converted to Islam while living in Belgium, studied at a religious school in Egypt and went to Syria for the jihad.[20] In August 2016, the man with dual Belgian and Russian nationality was convicted to four years in jail.[21] But again, we haven’t found any detail about how he would have been radicalized while living in Belgium.

Denis Pershin on social media in 2010

 

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Belgian Foreign Terrorist Fighters Database – definition and new highlights

We do list now every person:

  • of Belgian origin, foreign origin but living in Belgium for a significant time, or clearly recruited by an entity operating from Belgium and departed to the conflict via Belgian soil;
  • having tried to reach the war zone of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict that started in March 2011 or having planned to do so according to official documents and/or court proceedings;
  • with a clear intention to join a local fighting party there, be it as a fighter themselves or in any other role – including family members who may have been forced into the conflict zone.

While it has to be stressed that this definition isn’t limited to Sunni Islamists, they are the main focus of our research and actually 612 (or 98.5% of all our 621 records) can be considered as such. 289 at least have joined Islamic State, while the last known affiliation of 50 individuals is Jabhat an-Nusra — the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate — or one of it’s subsequent forms.

While the share of women was 15% in our previous update, that has risen now to 18%. We do know about 38 children – not counting those who may have been born after their parents have left, and sometimes came back with them. In terms of recruitment, Shariah4Belgium remains the most important actor with 101 individuals in whose departure it was implicated. The so-called Zerkani network can be held responsible for 85 departures.

Since many of our recent additions weren’t detailed enough to assess their status of departure, we have introduced a category ‘unknown’ for that – and after a review of all our records, our estimate of people who have reached the battle zone was lowered to 478. Of those who certainly didn’t succeed, 45 were stopped abroad and 22 in Belgium.

Of those who reached the conflict zone, at least 102 have returned and 129 were reportedly killed. 119 of those deaths have happened in the conflict zone, while 10 individuals were killed after their return to Europe as part of a terrorist plot. A complete list of the deceased is added below – but it has to be stressed more than ever that most deaths cannot be verified, and examples are known of fighters who faked their death to lure security services.

 

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List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict

 

  1. Julian André Harinton, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, convert from Antwerp who most likely joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in April 2012
  2. Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012
  3. Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012
  4. Soufiane Chioua, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks who left in October 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unkown date
  5. Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date
  6. Younes Laabadi, fighter from Houthalen-Helchteren who was related by marriage to IS terrorist Mohamed Abrini. Left in 2012 and considered dead by Belgian authorities
  7. Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013
  8. Anonymous fighterfrom Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family
  9. Anonymous fighterfrom Vilvoorde whose death was announced in April 2013. He was barely eightteen years old and got killed by a sniper two weeks after his arrival in Syria
  10. Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013
  11. Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013
  12. Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013
  13. Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013
  14. Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013
  15. Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013
  16. Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate
  17. Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  18. Youness Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate
  19. Ahmed Daoudi, aka Abu Mochsin, Shariah4Belgium recruit who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, but reportedly soon switched to a hospital job. Was active as a medical worker during the Al Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, went missing shortly afterwards and was reported dead
  20. Abdel Rahman Ayachi, aka Abu Hajjar, son of the Brussels-Syrian cheikh Bassam Ayachi, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in September 2013
  21. Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013
  22. Ahmed Dihaj, aka Abu Ateeq, a leading figure within Shariah4Belgium, who left early in 2013 to join Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
  23. Houssien Elouassaki, aka Abu Fallujah, Shariah4Belgium recruit who became the emir of the foreign chapter within Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen. Switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed in September 2013
  24. Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
  25. Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013
  26. Ibrahim El Harchi, aka Abu Ali, a recruit of Jean-Louis Denis fighting for Islamic State, killed in mid December 2013 during clashes with Ahrar as-Sham in Idlib governorate
  27. Sabri Refla, aka Abu Tourab, Denis recruit from Vilvoorde, who subsequently joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and the Islamic State. Died in Iraq in December 2013. Indications but no proof that he committed suicide attack
  28. Abu al-Baraa al-Belgiki, an anonymous fighter of Algerian descent, who served as emir for Islamic State in the Syrian town of Saraqib and was killed there in January 2014
  29. Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014
  30. Abdelmonaïm Lachiri, aka Abu Sara, recruit of the Zerkani network and a son of its ‘pasionaria’ Fatima Aberkan, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in February 2014
  31. Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014
  32. Hamza Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Younes Kharbache, who joined the Islamic State and was killed in February 2014 in Aleppo governorate
  33. Brahim Labrak, Denis recruit from Brussels with French roots, who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, switched to Islamic State and was killed in February 2014
  34. Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014
  35. Ilyass Boughalab, aka Abu Djarrah, Shariah4Belgium recruit killed in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  36. Yoni Mayne, aka Abu Dujana al-Mali, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Belgian father and Malinese mother, killed near ar-Raqqah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  37. Saïd El Morabit, aka Abu Muthanna, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp, killed between ar-Raqqah and Hasakah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  38. Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014
  39. Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014
  40. Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014
  41. Khalid Bali, aka Abu Hamza, brother of Mohamed Bali, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in May 2014 at the age of seventeen
  42. Khalid Hachti Bernan, aka Abu Mehdi/Abu Qa’qa, member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, originally from Virton, who was killed in May 2014
  43. Nabil Azahaf, aka Abu Sayyaf, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Vilvoorde who became a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in May 2014
  44. Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo
  45. Yassine El Karouni, aka Abu Osama, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from the Netherlands, but living in Antwerp. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in May 2014
  46. Kiéran Luce, aka Abu al-Qada al-Faransi, recruit of Denis network coming from the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. Joined Islamic State and committed suicide attack in northern Iraq in May 2014
  47. Iliass Azaouaj, an imam from Brussels who left to get Belgian fighters back home, then joined Islamic State himself, but was executed on suspicion of being a spy around July 2014
  48. AnonymousBelgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate
  49. Adem Ben Amor, aka Abu Obayda at-Tunisi, Tunisian who lived as refugee in Antwerp, joined the Islamic State in July 2014 and committed a suicide attack in Kobanê at an unknown date
  50. Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014
  51. Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate on August 31, 2014
  52. Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014
  53. Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, anonymous Belgian fighter of Tunisian descent, fighting for Islamic State and killed in September 2014 during a battle near the airport of Deir ez-Zor
  54. Abu Adnan al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Algerian descent who switched from Jabhat an-Nusra to Islamic State at the end of 2013 and was killed in September 2014
  55. Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  56. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate
  57. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter mentioned on a list of deaths of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, published in October 20147. It was later confirmed that this kunya doesn’t refer to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who faked his own death around the same time
  58. Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014
  59. Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014
  60. Fouâd Bouhali Zriouil, aka Abu Ilyass. Brother of al-Qaeda veteran Hicham Bouhali Zriouil from Brussels. Likely left in 2014 and killed at unknown date
  61. Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015
  62. Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015
  63. Khalid Ben Larbi, aka Abu Zoubeyr, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
  64. Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
  65. Anis Bouzzaouit, aka Abu Ibrahim, a Zerkani recruit who entered the Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in February 2015 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  66. Fahd Asamghi, aka Abu Sabir, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who subsequently fought for Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa’l Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. Killed in March 2015
  67. Younes Bakkouy, aka Abu Aziz, Islamic State fighter from Genk who left with two brothers, one of whom (and most likely him) was reportedly killed in March 2015 near Tikrit in Iraq
  68. Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015
  69. Mesut Cankurtaran, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde, recruited by Shariah4Belgium and the Denis network. Killed in March 2015 in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  70. Karim Kadir, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Charleroi, who committed suicide attack at the Iraqi-Jordan border on April 24, 2015
  71. Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate
  72. Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015
  73. Abu Muhammad Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter with roots in France and Cameroon. Military instructor within elite brigade of IS in Damascus & Homs governorates and reportedly killed in battle of Sokhna in May 2015
  74. Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier
  75. Sami Ladri, aka Abu Waliya, Zerkani recruit from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and committed suicide attack near an-Nukhayba (Iraq) on June 22, 2015
  76. Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015
  77. Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015
  78. Mossi Junior Juma, teenager from Brussels with roots in Burundi, said to be taken to Syria by his mother and killed in July 2015 at the age of sixteen
  79. Lucas Van Hessche, aka Abu Ibrahim, convert from Menen with roots in Haiti, joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2015 in Hasakah governorate
  80. Sahil Ahmed, aka Abu Mariyya al-Belgiki, fighter from Ghent, apparently of Indian descent. Joined Islamic State and was reportedly killed during his very first battle in August 2015
  81. Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015
  82. Brian De Mulder, aka Abu Qasim al-Brazili, convert from Antwerp with Belgian father and Brazilian mother, recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Died in October 2015 of wounds sustained by an air strike three weeks earlier
  83. Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015
  84. Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah
  85. Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015
  86. Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015
  87. Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor
  88. Bilal Hadfi, aka Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, Islamic State fighter of French origin living in Brussels, who committed suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
  89. Ibrahim Abdeslam, aka Abu Qa’qa al-Belgiki, Islamic State fighter of French origin living Brussels, who committed a suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
  90. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abu Omar al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed on November 18, 2015 during a police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
  91. Chakib Akrouh, aka Dhul-Qarnayn al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined the Islamic State and was killed on November 18, 2015 during police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
  92. Nour-Eddine El Mejdoubi, aka Abu Issa. Spanish-Moroccan IS fighter who resided in Belgium prior to his departure. Appeared in video from Syria in July 2014 and killed at unknown date according to Spanish press report in November 2015
  93. Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015
  94. Dniel Mahi, aka Abou Idrissi. Zerkani recruit from Brussels who likely was the ‘Padre’ codenamed leader of the Verviers terrorist plot. Presumed dead by Belgian authorities according to documents dating from 2015
  95. Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of IS according to court documents dating from 2016
  96. AnonymousBelgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016
  97. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016
  98. Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016
  99. AnonymousBelgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016
  100. Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016
  101. Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd, aka Abu Abdulaziz al-Jazairi, Islamic State fighter of Swedish/Algerian descent who was killed on March 15, 2016 during a police operation in Forest (Belgium) linked to the Paris attacks
  102. Najim Laachraoui, aka Abu Idriss, Brussels recruit of the Denis & Zerkani networks, who joined the Islamic State and committed a suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
  103. Ibrahim El Bakraoui, aka Abou Souleymane. Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was stopped on his way to Syria, but committed suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
  104. Khalid El Bakraoui, aka Abu Walid. IS fighter from Brussels who returned from Syria and committed suicide attack at the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
  105. David Robinsonova, aka Abou Souleyman Belgiki. Fighter from Molenbeek who was stateless prior to his naturalization as a Belgian citizen in 1985. Zerkani recruit who switched side from IS to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed near Idlib in April 2016, reportedly by an American drone
  106. Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) on April 8 or 9, 2016
  107. Abu Dawoud al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter with Jabhat an-Nusra, identified as deputy emir of its foreign fighters in August 2013. Killed by an air strike in May 2016, targeting a meeting of Jabhat an-Nusra leadership at Abu Adh Dhuhur air base in Idlib governorate
  108. Abu Abdilah al-Belgiki, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter of Maghribian origin, killed in June 2016 by a tank attack of the Syrian army near Aleppo
  109. AnonymousBelgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016
  110. Redwane Hajaoui, aka Abu Khalid Al Maghrib, fighter from Verviers who appeared in Islamic State video threatening Belgium and France and 2015, reported death in August 2016
  111. Nasser Azzouzi, fighter from the city of Verviers who left in August 2014, killed at unknown date according to information gathered in August 2016
  112. Zakaria Asbai, aka Abu Zubair, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde whose death at undisclosed time and location was reported in August 2016
  113. Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August 2016
  114. Lotfi Aoumeur, aka Abu Noor al-Jazairi/Abdullah al-Belgiki/Abu Anwar al-Belgiki. Fighter from Verviers who appeared in IS video threatening Belgium and France in 2015. Committed suicide attack in Qarrayah (Iraq) on August 9, 2016
  115. AnonymousBelgian fighter, said to be a leading figure in the media department of IS and killed on August 24, 2016 by an air strike in Qaim according to local media
  116. Abu Abdallah al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of Jabhat Fath as-Sham, the former Jabhat an-Nusra, near Hama on September 29, 2016
  117. Abu Omar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of Jabhat Fath as-Sham , the former Jabhat an-Nusra, in November 2016
  118. Hicham Naji, aka Abu Mehdi, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who was reportedly killed in Islamic State ranks in November 2016
  119. Sammy Djedou, aka Abu Musab al-Baljiki, an early Zerkani recruit who was reportedly involved in the planning of the 2015 Paris attacks. Killed by coalition drone strike in ar-Raqqah at December 4, 2016
  120. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter reportedly killed on January 15, 2017 in al-Andalus neighborhood of Mosul
  121. Kamal Eddine Aharchi, aka Abu Jinaan al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels who left in April 2013. Reportedly killed in the ranks of IS in Aleppo governorate on January 31, 2017
  122. Zacharia Iddoub, aka Abu Yahya Beljiki, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde reportedly killed by air strike on January 17, 2017 at undisclosed location
  123. Mohamed Abdel Rahman, aka Abu Hashim. Belgian of Algerian descent killed by coalition air strike in al-Tanak near Mosul on March 28, 2017 according to the Iraqi Ministery of Defense. Reportedly a senior leader overseeing the recruitment of fighters for IS
  124. Anonymous Belgian fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of IS during clashes with the Syrian army near Deir ez-Zor around May 10, 2017
  125. Anonymous Belgian fighter, said to be in Syria since 2014, reportedly killed by Russian air strikes on Hawijah neighborhood of Deir ez-Zor on May 11, 2017
  126. Anonymous Belgian fighter, said to be in Syria since 2014, reportedly killed by Russian air strikes on Hawijah neighborhood of Deir ez-Zor on May 11, 2017
  127. Yacine Azzaoui, aka Abu Abdelhadi al-Belgiki. Molenbeek recruiter of the Denis & Zerkani networks who left himself in August 2014. Reportedly killed near Deir ez-Zor on May 26 or 27, 2017
  128. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Belgian IS fighter, killed near Deir ez-Zor during clashes with the Syrian army on June 6, 2017. Said to be a “top field commander” and implicated in planning of terrorist attacks abroad
  129. Tarik Jadaoun, aka Abu Hamza al-Belgiki. IS fighter from Verviers who arrived in Syria in June 2014 and became involved in plotting terrorist attacks abroad. Reportedly killed at the end of the battle for Mosul (Iraq) in July 2017

 

[1] The names were published in seven separate Royal Decrees, which can be found here:

[2] Hof van Beroep Gent – Achtste Kamer Correctionele Zaken, Arrest C/928/2017, 28 June 2017. Not publicly available, but in the possession of the authors

[3] Rechtbank van eerste aanleg West-Vlaanderen – afdeling Brugge – sectie correctionele rechtbank, Vonnis 2889/2016, 23 December 2016. Not publicly available, but in possession of the authors

[4] All statements about Chalil Man are taken from the court documents mentioned in the preceding two footnotes

[5] Mairbek Vatchagaev, Hundreds of North Caucasians Have Joined the Ranks of Syria’s Rebels, Eurasia Daily Monitor volume 10 issue 166, Jamestown Foundation, 19 September 2013. Available online at http://jamestown.org/program/hundreds-of-north-caucasians-have-joined-the-ranks-of-syrias-rebels/

[6] According to a French investigation document in the possession of the authors

[7] Pieter Van Ostaeyen & Guy Van Vlierden, The Role of Belgian Fighters in the Jihadification of the Syrian War – From Plotting Early in 2011 to the Paris and Brussels Attacks, European Foundation for Democracy – Counter Extremism Project, 28 February 2017. Available online at http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Role-of-Belgian-Fighters-in-the-Jihadification-of-the-Syrian-War.pdf

[8] Guy Van Vlierden, Romani Gypsies recruiting for Jihad, Emmejihad, 11 December 2013. Available online at https://emmejihad.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/romani-gypsies-recruiting-for-jihad/

[9] Kristof Pieters & Guy Van Vlierden, Uit Syrië teruggekeerde Romazigeuner gevat, Het Laatste Nieuws, 7 December 2016

[10] Alexander Bischofberger-Mahr, Sali S.: “Dann gibt es mich nicht mehr”, Kronen Zeitung, 29 October 2016. Available online at http://www.krone.at/oesterreich/sali-s-dann-gibt-es-mich-nicht-mehr-kroneat-reportage-story-536589

[11] Mark Eeckhout, De terroristen van het Sint-Jansplein, De Standaard, 30 March 2012. Available online at http://www.standaard.be/cnt/a53o5dqi?s=1

[12] Kristof Aerts & José Masschelin, Van vrijspraak naar 8 jaar cel, Het Laatste Nieuws, 9 January 2014

[13] Per Gudmundson, Efterlyses: enarmade tjetjener, gudmundson.blogspot.be, 2 March 2009. Available online at http://gudmundson.blogspot.be/2009/03/efterlyses-enarmade-tjetjener.html

[14] US Department of the Treasury, Treasury Sanctions Individuals Affiliated With Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Caucasus Emirate, 5 October 2015. Available online at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0199.aspx

[15] Faith Karimi & Steve Almasy, Istanbul airport attack: Planner, 2 bombers identified, report says, CNN, 2 July 2016. Avalaible online at http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/01/europe/turkey-istanbul-ataturk-airport-attack/index.html

[16] Thea Swierstra, OCMW Antwerpen stelt leefloners tewerk in tuinbouw, De Morgen, 20 April 2007

[17] Anonymous, Ingusthetian and Chechen disappear on their way to Moscow, Causasian Knot, 23 August 2010. Available online at http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/14226/

[18] Inge Ghijs, Erkend politiek vluchteling door Griekenland uitgeleverd, De Standaard, 27 March 2013

[19] Inge Ghijs, Belgische politieke vluchteling weer thuis, De Standaard, 18 May 2013

[20] Anonymous, Nalchik resident converted to Islam in Belgium, trained as militant in Syria detained in Kabardino-Balkaria, Interfax, 11 December 2015. Available online at http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12599

[21] Lyudmila Maratova, Житель Кабардино-Балкарии осужден за причастность к сирийским боевикам, Кавказский Узел, 18 August 2016. Available online at http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/287786/


Belgian fighters in Syria & Iraq – a closer look at the converts

Since the latest update in December of last year1, 28 individuals were added to our database of Belgian fighters in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict. That brings our estimate to 591 people, including relatives who did not leave to fight themselves. 40 of these Belgian foreign fighters are converts to Islam, with a remarkably high share of autochthonous women.

Pieter Van Ostaeyen & Guy Van Vlierden

On a total number of 591 people from Belgium who at least have tried to join an armed group in Syria/Iraq during the current conflict (including Belgians, people who resided in Belgium and/or were recruited by Belgian networks), 40 are certainly or very likely converts. That’s almost 7%.

This share is significantly lower than in some of the surrounding countries. In Germany, converts represent 12% of all foreign terrorist fighters, while in France their share amounts to 23%.2 We don’t have a solid explanation for the lower Belgian number, but the importance of the Zerkani network in the Belgian recruitment may be at play. That network consisted almost exclusively of people from North African descent, and thereby had very few converts in its ranks.

18 of the 40 Belgian converts have a fully European background — of whom 11 fully Belgian. 10 are children of a mixed marriage between a European and a non-European parent, 5 have fully non-European backgrounds, and 2 were adopted. For the remaining 5, we do not know. Foreign backgrounds include Italy (6), France (5), Congo (5), Algeria (1), Brazil (1), Haiti (1), Ivory Coast (1), Lebanon (1), Mali (1), Nigeria (1), the Philippines (1), Rwanda (1) and South Africa (1). Please note that one individual can have multiple foreign backgrounds.

26 of the converts are male, and 14 female. With 35% of the converts, the share of women is remarkably high. On the total number of Belgian foreign fighters, they only represent 15%. That may be at least partly caused by a higher number of females converting to Islam overall in Belgium. But while that overrepresentation of women is often cited, the exact proportions are not known apparently.3

Moreover, there appears to be a significant difference between both sexes in terms of ethnic background. While 75% of the males has some kind of non-European roots (due to mixed marriages or adoption), that is the case for only 8% of the females — and while females only count for 35% of our total number of converts, they do represent 82% of all those with a fully Belgian background.

Our sample may be too small for solid conclusions, but the impression exists that identity issues resulting from a multi-ethnic background (that doesn’t necessarily includes Islam already) are less important as a driver of conversion and radicalization for women than for men. It is noteworthy that a study of converted foreign fighters from Belgium and the Netherlands found that almost all the women were driven by very personal problems — i.e. not related to an ethnic, cultural or religious background — while the situation of the men was much more diverse.4

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Definition of Belgian fighters

Altogether, we do estimate the number of Belgian foreign fighters in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict at 591 now, defining them as follows:

1) every person of Belgian origin, foreign origin but living in Belgium for a significant time, or clearly recruited by an entity operating from Belgium and departed to the conflict zone via Belgian soil;

2) having at least physically tried to reach the war zone of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict that started in March 2011;

3) with a clear intention to join a local fighting party there, be it as a fighter themselves or in any other role.

While it has to be stressed that this definition is broader than Sunni Islamists, actually 582 (or 98% of all our records) can be considered as such.5

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Highlights of our current estimates

First of all we have to emphasize that adding individuals to our database doesn’t say anything about the phenomenon’s evolution in time. Such additions are rarely people who have recently left, but much more often older cases newly known to us.

That said, our current estimate includes 259 people in the ranks of the Islamic State — 69.4% of all 373 records for which an exact affiliation is known. The Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate formerly known as Jabhat an-Nusra, remains the second most important group with 50 people or 13.4%.

531 people have reached the battle zone — a rate of 89.8%. 42 or 7.1% were stopped abroad and 18 or 3% in Belgium. We do have information about 158 people who returned, including those who left but never reached their goal.

118 people were reportedly killed — 109 in the war zone and 9 others after their to Europe to commit a terrorist attack. It has to be stressed that most of the deaths could not be verified, and examples are known of fighters faking their death to lure security services.

That could for instance be the case with Redwane Hajaoui, considered dead last year by the mayor of his hometown Verviers.6 Very recently, a wanted notice allegedly issued by France started circulating on the internet, indicating that Hajaoui is alive and may be plotting an attack. But as long as the authenticity of that notice isn’t established, we keep him on our list.

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List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed

1. Julian André Harinton, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, convert from Antwerp who most likely joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in April 2012

2. Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012

3. Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012

4. Soufiane Chioua, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks who left in October 2012, joinedMajlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unkown date

5. Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date

6. Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013

7. Anonymous fighter from Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family

8. Anonymous fighter from Vilvoorde whose death was announced in April 2013. He was barely eightteen years old and got killed by a sniper two weeks after his arrival in Syria

9. Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013

10. Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013

11. Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013

12. Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013

13. Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013

14. Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013

15. Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate

16. Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate

17. Younes Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate

18. Ahmed Daoudi, aka Abu Mochsin, Shariah4Belgium recruit who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, but reportedly soon switched to a hospital job. Was active as a medical worker during the Al Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, went missing shortly afterwards and was reported dead

19. Abdel Rahman Ayachi, aka Abu Hajjar, son of the Brussels-Syrian cheikh Bassam Ayachi, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in September 2013

20. Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013

21. Ahmed Dihaj, aka Abu Ateeq, a leading figure within Shariah4Belgium, who left early in 2013 to join Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013

22. Houssien Elouassaki, aka Abu Fallujah, Shariah4Belgium recruit who became the emir of the foreign chapter within Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen. Switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed in September 2013

23. Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013

24. Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013

25. Ibrahim El Harchi, aka Abu Ali, a recruit of Jean-Louis Denis fighting for Islamic State, killed in mid December 2013 during clashes with Ahrar as-Sham in Idlib governorate

26. Sabri Refla, aka Abu Tourab, Denis recruit from Vilvoorde, who subsequently joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and the Islamic State. Committed suicide attack in Iraq in December 2013

27. Abu al-Baraa al-Belgiki, an anonymous fighter of Algerian descent, who served as emir for Islamic State in the Syrian town of Saraqib and was killed there in January 2014

28. Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014

29. Abdelmonaïm Lachiri, aka Abu Sara, recruit of the Zerkani network and a son of its ‘pasionaria’ Fatima Aberkan, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in February 2014

30. Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014

31. Hamza Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Younes Kharbache, who joined the Islamic State and was killed in February 2014 in Aleppo governorate

32. Brahim Labrak, Denis recruit from Brussels with French roots, who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, switched to Islamic State and was killed in February 2014

33. Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014

34. Ilyass Boughalab, aka Abu Djarrah, Shariah4Belgium recruit killed in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar

35. Yoni Mayne, aka Abu Dujana al-Mali, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Belgian father and Malinese mother, killed near ar-Raqqah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar

36. Saïd El Morabit, aka Abu Muthanna, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp, killed between ar-Raqqah and Hasakah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar

37. Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014

38. Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014

39. Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014

40. Khalid Bali, aka Abu Hamza, brother of Mohamed Bali, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in May 2014 at the age of seventeen

41. Khalid Hachti Bernan, aka Abu Mehdi/Abu Qa’qa, member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, originally from Virton, who was killed in May 2014

42. Nabil Azahaf, aka Abu Sayyaf, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Vilvoorde who became a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in May 2014

43. Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo

44. Yassine El Karouni, aka Abu Osama, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from the Netherlands, but living in Antwerp. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in May 2014

45. Kiéran Luce, aka Abu al-Qada al-Faransi, recruit of Denis network coming from the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. Joined Islamic State and committed suicide attack in northern Iraq in May 2014

46. Iliass Azaouaj, an imam from Brussels who left to get Belgian fighters back home, then joined Islamic State himself, but was executed on suspicion of being a spy around July 2014

47. Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate

48. Adem Ben Amro, aka Abu Obayda at-Tunisi, Tunisian who lived as refugee in Antwerp, joined the Islamic State in July 2014 and committed a suicide attack in Kobanê at an unknown date

49. Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014

50. Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate in August 2014

51. Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014

52. Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, anonymous Belgian fighter of Tunisian descent, fighting for Islamic State and killed in September 2014 during a battle near the airport of Deir ez-Zor

53. Abu Adnan al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Algerian descent who switched from Jabhat an-Nusra to Islamic State at the end of 2013 and was killed in September 2014

54. Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate

55. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate

56. Abu Yahya al-Belgiki, anonymous member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, killed in October 2014

57. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter mentioned on a list of deaths of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, published in October 20147. It was later confirmed that this kunya doesn’t refer to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who faked his own death around the same time

58. Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014

59. Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014

60. Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015

61. Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015

62. Khalid Ben Larbi, aka Abu Zoubeyr, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015

63. Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015

64. Anis Bouzzaouit, aka Abu Ibrahim, a Zerkani recruit who entered the Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in February 2015 in Deir ez-Zor governorate

65. Fahd Asamghi, aka Abu Sabir, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who subsequently fought for Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa’l Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. Killed in March 2015

66. Younes Bakkouy, aka Abu Aziz, Islamic State fighter from Genk who left with two brothers, one of whom (and most likely him) was reportedly killed in March 2015 near Tikrit in Iraq

67. Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015

68. Mesut Cankurtaran, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde, recruited by Shariah4Belgium and the Denis network. Killed in March 2015 in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate

69. Karim Kadir, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Charleroi, who committed suicide attack at the Iraqi-Jordan border on April 24, 2015

70. Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate

71. Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015

72. Abu Muhammad Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter with roots in France and Cameroon. Military instructor within elite brigade of IS in Damascus & Homs governorates and reportedly killed in battle of Sokhna in May 2015

73. Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier

74. Sami Ladri, aka Abu Waliya, Zerkani recruit from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and committed suicide attack near an-Nukhayba (Iraq) on June 22, 2015

75. Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015

76. Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015

77. Mossi Junior Juma, teenager from Brussels with roots in Burundi, said to be taken to Syria by his mother and killed in July 2015 at the age of sixteen

78. Lucas Van Hessche, aka Abu Ibrahim, convert from Menen with roots in Haiti, joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2015 in Hasakah governorate

79. Sahil Ahmed, aka Abu Mariyya al-Belgiki, fighter from Ghent, apparently of Indian descent. Joined Islamic State and was reportedly killed during his very first battle in August 2015

80. Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015

81. Brian De Mulder, aka Abu Qasim al-Brazili, convert from Antwerp with Belgian father and Brazilian mother, recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Died in October 2015 of wounds sustained by an air strike three weeks earlier

82. Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015

83. Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah

84. Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015

85. Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015

86. Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor

87. Bilal Hadfi, aka Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, Islamic State fighter of French origin living in Brussels, who committed suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015

88. Ibrahim Abdeslam, aka Abu Qa’qa al-Belgiki, Islamic State fighter of French origin living Brussels, who committed a suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015

89. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abu Omar al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed on November 18, 2015 during a police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks

90. Chakib Akrouh, aka Dhul-Qarnayn al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined the Islamic State and was killed on November 18, 2015 during police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks

91. Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015

92. Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in January 2016

93. Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016

94. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016

95. Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016

96. Anonymous Belgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016

97. Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016

98. Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd, aka Abu Abdulaziz al-Jazairi, Islamic State fighter of Swedish/Algerian descent who was killed on March 15, 2016 during a police operation in Forest (Belgium) linked to the Paris attacks

99. Najim Laachraoui, aka Abu Idriss, Brussels recruit of the Denis & Zerkani networks, who joined the Islamic State and committed a suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016

100. Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was stopped on his way to Syria, but committed suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016 (Belgium)

101. Abou Souleyman Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Brussels, who switched side from the Islamic State to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed near Idlib in April 2016, reportedly by an American drone

102. Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) in April 2016

103. Abu Dawoud al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter with Jabhat an-Nusra, identified as deputy emir of its foreign fighters in August 2013. Killed by an air strike in May 2016, targeting a meeting of Jabhat an-Nusra leadership at Abu Adh Dhuhur air base in Idlib governorate

104. Abu Abdilah al-Belgiki, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter of Maghribian origin, killed in June 2016 by a tank attack of the Syrian army near Aleppo

105. Anonymous Belgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016

106. Redwane Hajaoui, aka Abu Khalid Al Maghrib, fighter from Verviers who appeared in Islamic State video threatening Belgium and France and 2015, reported death in August 2016

107. Anonymous Belgian fighter from the city of Verviers, killed at unknown date according to a declaration of the Verviers mayor in August 2016

108. Zakaria Asbai, aka Abu Zubair, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde whose death at undisclosed time and location was reported in August 2016

109. Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August 2016

110. Lotfi Aoumeur, aka Abu Noor al-Jazairi/Abdullah al-Belgiki/Abu Anwar al-Belgiki. Fighter from Verviers who appeared in IS video threatening Belgium and France in 2015. Committed suicide attack in Qarrayah (Iraq) on August 9, 2016

111. Anonymous Belgian fighter, said to be a leading figure in the media department of IS and killed on August 24, 2016 by an air strike in Qaim according to local media

112. Abu Abdallah al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of Jabhat Fath as-Sham, the former Jabhat an-Nusra, near Hama on September 29, 2016

113. Abu Omar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of Jabhat Fath as-Sham , the former Jabhat an-Nusra, in November 2016

114. Hicham Naji, aka Abu Mehdi, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who was reportedly killed in Islamic State ranks in November 2016

115. Sammy Djedou, aka Abu Musab al-Baljiki, an early Zerkani recruit who was reportedly involved in the planning of the 2015 Paris attacks. Killed by coalition drone strike in ar-Raqqah at December 4, 2016

116. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter reportedly killed on January 15, 2017 in al-Andalus neighborhood of Mosul

117. Zacharia Iddoub, aka Abu Yahya Beljiki, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde reportedly killed by air strike on January 17, 2017 at undisclosed location

118. Mohamed Abdel Rahman, aka Abu Hashim. Belgian of Algerian descent killed by coalition air strike in al-Tanak near Mosul on March 28, 2017 according to the Iraqi Ministery of Defense. Reportedly a senior leader overseeing the recruitment of fighters for IS

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1Guy Van Vlierden & Pieter Van Ostaeyen, Belgian Fighters in Syria and Iraq – An Update of Our Data, pietervanostaeyen.com, 7 December 2016, https://pietervanostaeyen.com/2016/12/07/belgian-fighters-in-syria-iraq-december-2016/

2Bibi van Ginkel and Eva Entenmann (Eds.), The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union. Profiles, Threats & Policies, The Hague, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2016, http://icct.nl/publication/report-the-foreign-fighters-phenomenon-in-the-eu-profiles-threats-policies/

3Ann Peuteman & Ewald Pironet, “In het begin ben je tot over je oren verliefd op de islam”, Knack, 27 January 2016, http://www.knack.be/nieuws/belgie/bekeerd-tot-de-islam-waarom-vlaamse-vrouwen-moslim-worden/article-longread-650859.html

4Marion van San, Lost Souls Searching for Answers? Belgian and Dutch Converts Joining the Islamic State, Perspectives on Terrorism, Volume 9, N°5 (2015), http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/460

5For more details about our methods and data, please see the most recent update mentioned above and the previous one at https://pietervanostaeyen.com/2016/08/03/belgian-fighters-in-syria-and-iraq-an-important-review-of-our-data/