A car theft in the Netherlands, a seemingly insignificant note that was found in Molenbeek, and a shop for swimming pool equipment in the North of France. These are the three ingredients of the best clue there ever has been to thwart the Paris and Brussels attacks — a new investigation by the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reveals.
A lot has been written already about the clues that security services missed in the run-up to the Paris and Brussels attacks — clues that could have prevented the bloodshed by Islamic State. Could have. In hindsight, it is easy to list the mistakes. Yes, it was known to the police that Salah Abdeslam had started to radicalize. But at that time, it was the case with tens, if not hundreds of Belgian Muslims like him. And yes, only 22 days before the Paris attacks, a search took place in the house of Khalid El Bakraoui because he tried to obtain kalashnikov chargers. But he was known as a gangster and in the end no weapons were found.
Bayroshock without chlorine
About one clue, however, nothing has been published yet — and that clue is likely the very best chance authorities missed to detect the terrorist cell. It started with the theft of a car in a small village between the Dutch rivers Maas and Waal. It was a silver colored Audi S4 built in 2003 that disappeared in the night from August 10 to 11, 2015 at a parking lot in Rijswijk — part of the municipality of Woudrichem and not to be confused with the much bigger town of Rijswijk near The Hague. “Klerelijers”, a friend of the owner reacted at a notice on Facebook, using an equivalent for “assholes” that is endemic for the Netherlands — while another one hurled: “Your country will be proud of you”, easily assuming that the thief was of foreign origin.
The rightful owner got his car back after it was found in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek, and during a subsequent house search a handwritten note was found. It seemed of little importance: “Bayroshock without chlorine”, it mentioned, followed by the addresses of two shops for swimming pool equipment in the North of France. Bayroshock is a product against algae that consists of hydrogen peroxide at a concentration of 34%. Apart from being recommended for the treatment of pools, that same substance is also a main ingredient of TATP. Triacetone triperoxide is the explosive often called ‘the Mother of Satan’ and known as a terrorist’s favorite since the failed attempt by ‘shoe bomber‘ Richard Reid to blow up a plane between Paris and Miami in December 2001.
The man in whose house the note was found, is Ahmed Dahmani — a naturalized Belgian citizen of Moroccan descent. He was born in 1989 in Al Hoceima, a town between the Rif mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, he was living in a fourteen-storied building in the Molenbeek ‘Zone du Canal’ — not the kind of address where a swimming pool owner can be expected. He was mainly known to the judiciary as a multi-recidivist criminal, who was caught for theft already at the age of twelve. The latest of the 51 cases in which his name appeared, was about a massive traffic in hard drugs between Belgium, France and Luxembourg. But there were signs of radicalization too, much stronger signs in fact than those present at that time with his childhood friend Salah Abdeslam.
Blessing the expansion of Shariah4Belgium
With Abdeslam, he underwent an identity check on board of a ferry between Patras in Greece and Bari in Italy only a week before the car theft in the Netherlands. Now, we know that they conducted one of many travels along the refugee route that was used by the Islamic State to smuggle terrorists to the West, but then it understandingly did not raise a particular suspicion yet. Ten days after the search that uncovered the note, however, Dahmani was named in a report about radicalism. Written by a motorized patrol of the Brussels police that had apprehended a suspected candidate for the Syrian jihad. Friends of the suspect had tried rather brutally to prevent that arrest, and Dahmani was one of them.
At Facebook, Dahmani did not hide his beliefs. There, he complained in 2014 already that the word extremism was “invented by enemies of the Islam”, while posting a quote that the Islamic State often uses to recruit criminals like him for the jihad — the one in which the second caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab declared: “Sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future”. Dahmani also posted Islamic State videos, and three days before a terrorist attack was foiled in Verviers — in January 2015 — he threatened: “One day everything will be paid.” He did all of that under the cover of a pseudonym, but his contacts with a suspect in the Verviers case could have lead to his identification back then already.
In Dahmani’s family tree, radicalism became obvious almost a decade ago. His older brother Mohamed — who basically raised him instead of their always absent father and their chronically ill mother — was named in a terrorist case as early as 2009. He was investigated for his contacts with the suspects of a bomb attack in Cairo that killed a French teenager — the same suspects behind the earliest plot against the Bataclan in Paris. Mohamed Dahmani was never charged, but by the time his brother Ahmed entered the scene, at least three of Mohamed’s friends had left for Syria. One of them departed from Brussels in the company of the later terrorist commander Abdelhamid Abaaoud. And in 2012 already, Mohamed himself was known as a patron of Shariah4Belgium, asked explicitly for his blessings when leader Fouad Belkacem wanted to expand his recruitment from Antwerp to Brussels.
“Talking like youngsters, but not impolite”
Altogether, there were plenty reasons to raise the alarm when Ahmed Dahmani showed his interest in an ingredient for bombs. But that did not happen, and at the 8th of October 2015 — a month after the note of Dahmani was found — a BMW left Molenbeek towards the North of France. At 4h04 that afternoon, the car was caught by a speed camera at the A2 highway in Neuville-sur-Escaut. The license plate would later learn that the vehice was rented by Salah Abdeslam, and the GPS revealed two stops: at 5h02 in the rue Maurice Thorez in Saint-Sauveur, and at 5h44 in the rue Ferdinand de Lesseps in Beauvais — the two shops mentioned on Dahmani’s note.
Both are branches of Irri Jardin, a chain “for your swimming pool, irrigation and spa”. The shop in Saint-Sauveur had ran out of Bayroshock, it seems. But the Beauvais manager recounted to the police how he sold his entire stock that day. “I had three jerrycans of five liters each, and they asked for more. When I told that half a jerrycan is sufficient for one pool, they claimed that they did the maintenance of several pools in the Paris area. Then they asked for a similar product, which I couldn’t offer. ‘Let’s buy these three then, we have to leave’, one of them said. They paid with cash and didn’t look tense, only a bit in a hurry.”
The manager described the two men as North-Africans between 25 and 30 years old. Both were of average build, had short hair and a short shaved beard. One of them was wearing a jacket over his sweater, the other one a bodywarmer. They spoke French — also when they talked to each other — without a particular accent. “They expressed themselves like youngsters do, but they weren’t impolite”, the manager said. Confronted with the pictures of known suspects, he thought to recognize Salah Abdeslam. But he wasn’t sure. Altogether, the two men spent no more than seven minutes in his shop, after which they made a fuel stop at the Total station of Hardivillers and returned to Molenbeek.
Forbidden in Belgium now, but not in France
French investigators are fairly confident that their purchase has served to fabricate the bombs that were used for the attacks in Paris on the night of 13 November 2015. There were eight explosive belts, of which two have failed to detonate. Each of them contained between one and two kilograms of TATP, and according to explosives experts of the French police, the terrorists could make ten kilograms with fifteen liters Bayroshock. In Belgium, the EU directive banning the sale of hydrogen peroxide in concentrations above 12% to private customers was passed into law in July 2016. But in France, a softened version entered into force last year, just requiring registration for private purchases.
Ahmed Dahmani is in Turkish custody now. He took a flight in Amsterdam on the morning after the Paris attacks, with a ticket that was bought a few hours prior to the bloodbath — indicating that he knew what was going to happen. When he was arrested near Antalya on the 16th of November 2015, he was still in the possession of his Belgian documents, including membership cards of the Christian trade union CSC and the Grand Casino in Brussels. In the meantime, however, he had also bought a false Syrian passport with the name Mazen Mohamad Ali, and the WhatsApp conversations on his phone revealed that he had planned to reach the territory of Islamic State. In December 2016, a Turkish court convicted him to ten years and nine months in jail for membership of a terrorist organization. After he has served that sentence, Belgian and French extradition requests are awaiting him.
At last week’s terrorism trial in Brussels, a man who has admitted a beheading in Syria was sentenced to five years in jail. But the judge didn’t listen to the plea of the public prosecutor to arrest him on the spot. So the man could freely walk out.
Iliass Khayari is a 25 year old Muslim born in Brussels. In December 2012, he left for Syria, apparently sent by Jean-Louis Denis. Denis is a notorious recruiter initially siding with Shariah4Belgium, but later also active in the network of Khalid Zerkani, the man who has recruited three of the perpetrators of the Paris and Brussels attacks. Khayari stayed only half a year in Syria. He returned to Belgium in June 2013 after being hit by a bullet, causing him a pneumothorax and a fractured upper arm.
But his stay in Syria was long enough to commit a cruelty there. In a phone call to a friend at home, which was tapped by the police, he told on the 3rd of May 2013 how he had beheaded a man. “I swear I did”, he said, according to a transcript obtained by the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. “We ripped his head off!” When asked which crime the victim had committed to deserve a treatment like that, Khayari responded: “He was a taghut, my friend. An enemy of Allah.”
That his confession was overheard by Belgian police, did not land him in jail for long time after he had returned. He was tried for membership of a terrorist organization, but when the verdict was read exactly three years after the call, he appeared in court as a conditionally free man. Khayari got five years in jail, but half of that sentence was suspended — with as one of the conditions that he cannot go to war anymore — and the judge did not honour the plea of the public prosecutor to arrest him on the spot.
So the self-declared beheader remains free until his conviction is definitive — meaning several months in case of appeal. A separate investigation was opened into the beheading, but it isn’t sure yet whether that will lead to further prosecution. In the meantime, Khayari insists that he was misinterpreted. Although he clearly stated in the phone call that he performed the beheading himself, now he says that he only witnessed it on some public place.
There is little reason to believe that he speaks the truth, however. Until now, he also insists that he never participated in any fight. But in another tapped call, he told in detail about such a battle, describing how his unit surrounded the enemy and how a comrade died. In his own version, he quickly left his fighting comrades to start working in a hospital himself. But his phone details reveal that he still was with his friends months after that.
He also says that he is not radicalized, while on his phone loads of extremist content was found. That, he says, must be saved by the Syrian man from whom he bought the device. “I’ve never noticed myself that those things were on my phone.” One of the documents however, is a text in French, titled “Why I support Fouad Belkacem” — a reference to the imprisoned Shariah4Belgium founder. Chances are slim that a Syrian man kept a document like that on his phone.
There are even tapped conversations in which Khayari makes clear how he prepared to delude the Belgian authorities after an eventual return. “I will not be sent to jail as long as everyone testifies that I only have joined the Free Syrian Army”, he once told a friend. Clinging to his lies until the end of the trial, Khayari did not show the slightest sense of guilt or remorse — which could have been an argument for the judge for being that mild.
IS fighters from the Belgian town of Maaseik: A rare connection between actual networks and old school terroristsPosted: 2015/01/04
Recently, a new Belgian fighter has surfaced within the ranks of the Islamic State (IS). The fourth already from Maaseik. The radical islamist community in that little border town is bridging the gap between the actual networks and old school terrorists — a rather rare phenomenon in Belgium.
He posted his picture a few days ago on his Facebook account, the Belgian fighter who’s using the alias ‘Abou Shaheed’. Standing beside the seemingly obligate pick-up truck and holding an impressive rifle. Little is told about the location, the date of his arrival and his true identity. But apparently he went to Syria somewhere last month, his friends at home are calling him ‘Fasil from Maaseik’ and his actual Facebook account previously has carried the name of Fayssal Oussaih.
The name Oussaih rings a bell for anyone familiar with the extremist scene of Maaseik. Back in 2006, several inhabitants of the town were convicted at a trial in Brussels for their membership of the ‘Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain’ (GICM), a terrorist organization held responsible for the bloody attacks of Casablanca (45 deaths at May 16, 2003) and Madrid (191 deaths at March 11, 2004). Later, it became a part of ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’ (AQIM), the North African branch of Osama bin Laden’s network. More on its background can be read here.
One of the defendants was tried in absentia because he was imprisoned in Syria already. At that time, the country was known as main gate to the jihad against the US military presence in Iraq. Apparently, GICM was active in the recruitment of fighters for that struggle, and Khalid Oussaih — a man from Maaseik who was in his early twenties then — had lent his passport to a higher ranking GICM member in order to let the latter escape during one of their travels. While he was sentenced to four years in jail by the Belgian court, Syria responded to an extradition request of Morocco, leading to another sentence of three years there.
After being freed in Morocco, Khalid Oussaih spent some time in France. But in 2013, he decided to settle again in Maaseik. In November of that year, he was arrested in Belgium because he never had served his prison time here. But he appealed against the initial verdict — a case that is lingering on — and in the meantime, he’s free. The exact relation between Khalid and Fayssal Oussaih isn’t clear yet, but since they share their name and their rather tiny hometown, chances are high that they are relatives.
Fact is that Fayssal Oussaih has connections with at least two other convicts of the trial in 2006. On Facebook, he is friends with Khalid Bouloudo and Abdallah Ouabour — who were both sentenced to five years in jail for being members of GICM. The same is true for Jamal Elkoua, one of the other fighters in Syria with roots in Maaseik. And a third one, Rachid Iba, was convicted himself to three years in jail back in 2006.
So in Maaseik, there exists some kind of continuity between the ‘old school’ terrorists of GICM and the current networks recruiting for IS. That is quite exceptional in the Belgian context. The country has seen a very wide range of islamic extremism in the past decades, but nowadays everything seems to be centered around completely new organizations — of which Shariah4Belgium certainly has been the most important one.
Interestingly, there is a connection between the fighters from Maaseik and Shariah4Belgium too — since Rachid Iba has married the sister of Brahim El Mimouni, an important lieutenant of Shariah4Belgium founder Fouad Belkacem. El Mimouni was the webmaster of the organization until he left for Syria himself. Nowadays he seems to serve IS both in its propaganda department and in its foreign relations — more specifically by strengthening the ties between Syrian an Libyan cells. Apparently, El Mimouni grew that important that comrades now are calling him ‘sheikh’.
Finally, we’ve mentioned already another figure with roots in the ‘old school’ Belgian jihad, who currently is forging ties with the new generation of extremists. In April of last year, Abdelkader Hakimi posted pictures taken in Aleppo on his Facebook account — an apparent sign of being in Syria — while he too had friends already within the regiment of Belgian fighters recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Hakimi was considered as the European leader of GICM and sentenced to eight years in prison at the trial in 2006.
All those links may be results of merely personal acquaintances and coincidence, but it would be interesting to know whether there are similar patterns in other European countries too. We are very keen to learn about connections between the actual jihad in Syria and Iraq — not only IS — and former operatives of GICM.
The Islamic State is in dire need of fighters, a prominent Belgian member admits. Listing the sixteen best reasons to join the jihad, he puts the lack of manpower at the second place.
PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW.
According to recent reports in western media, the Islamic State (IS) is so in need of additional manpower after weeks of hammering airstrikes, that it dropped most of its vetting of foreign recruits. In the past, new volunteers had to present recommendations of three established fighters before they were allowed to cross the Turkish border and enter Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s caliphate. “Almost any muslim who wants to travel now can”, a man responsible for a safehouse of IS in the Turkish town of Urfa told ‘The Daily Telegraph‘ last week.
Writing on his Facebook page, a prominent Belgian fighter within IS now explicitly confirms that the group is in shortage of fighters. Hicham Chaïb, a former leader of the extremist organization Shariah4Belgium, listed sixteen arguments to join the army of IS. “We call upon the muslims to fight for so much reasons”, he wrote, “with the following as the most obvious.” The first one he mentioned was “to prevent the infidels to dominate”, while the second already spoke about the “lack of manpower” his group is facing now.
The entire list reads as follows — as literally as possible translated out of Dutch:
1. To prevent the infidels to dominate
2. Because of the lack of manpower
3. Out of fear for the fire in hell
4. To fulfill the duty of Jihad and heed the call of the Lord
5. To follow the pious predecessors (the exemplary generations)
6. To build a solid base for Islam
7. To protect those who are suppressed in the countries
8. To hope for martyrdom and a high position in the Paradise
9. Because Jihad truly is a shield for the honor of the Ummah and a means to avoid humiliation
10. To protect the honor of the Ummah and to break the conspiracy of its enemies
11. To guarantee the earth and protect against depravity
12. To safeguard the islamic places of worship
13. To protect the Ummah against punishment, depravation and replacement
14. For the prosperity of the Ummah and the expansion of its means
15. Because Jihad is the culmination of Islam
16. Because Jihad is the most outstanding way of worship and the Muslim can obtain the highest degrees with it.
Before he went to Syria on the 19th of March 2013, Chaïb was known as bodyguard of Shariah4Belgium’s founder and leader Fouad Belkacem. But the role of ‘Abu Haniefa’ — as he was called in the organization — was much more important than flexing his muscles. That became clear when he took over the organization after Belkacem’s imprisonment in June 2012 together with two other core members, Feisal Yamoun and Noureddine Abouallal. They are both killed in Syria since. All four the mentioned men are currently on trial in Belgium for leadership of a terrorist organization — in absentia of course, apart from Belkacem.
In Syria, Chaïb apparently is trying to become the new public face of his group. He did appear already in several promotional videos describing the prosperous life in the caliphate, and frequently is launching new appeals to join IS in Facebook posts. His wife Kaoutar Bioui, also known as ‘Umm Haniefa Al Belgikiya’, has followed her husband to Syria and is as radical as he. In May of this year, she even called upon the muslims in Belgium to assassinate the far right politician Filip De Winter. “May Allah enlighten our eyes with the slaughter of this pig”, she wrote.
UPDATE: Chaïb’s list of arguments to join Islamic State comes literally from Al Qaida’s co-founder Abdullah Yusuf Azzam’s years old pamphlet ‘Join the Caravan‘, as Timothy Holman informed us today. So, it may be wrong to relate it to the current state of IS.
Today, the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ identified the 29th Belgian fighter who has died in Syria. Khalid Bali was 17 years old and lost his brother Mohammed last year already in the Syrian war.
“Breaking news: six fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham became martyrs last night near Deir Ez-Zor”, the Belgian ISIS member Hicham Chaïb — a.k.a. Abu Haniefa — announced last Sunday on his Facebook account. “One of them is Abu Hamza Al-Belgiki and another one Abu Usama Al-Hollandi. May Allah accept them as martyrs and grant them the highest rank in paradise!”
No further details were given about the identities of the deceased, but journalists from the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ quickly discovered their compatriot was Khalid Bali, a teenager from the Antwerp suburb of Merksem who would have turned 18 at the end of July. Bali’s older brother Mohammed was one of the early members of Shariah4Belgium, an organization of radical muslims that is associated with a fair big amount Belgian fighters who went to Syria.
Reportedly, it was Mohammed who introduced the now imprisoned leader of Shariah4Belgium, Fouad Belkacem, to Brian De Mulder — the Flemish boy with a Brazilian mother who was raised as a christian, but became one of the most famous European fighters in Syria. Mohammed himself was killed in September 2013 near Homs at the age of 23. That same month, Khalid urged his comrades in Belgium to join him in a lengthy Facebook post.
“There’s nothing we can do in Belgium”, he wrote. “These days we are obliged to make hijra and revive our religion as in the time of our Prophet. That is only possible when we stand up and give our lives for Allah. This life is worth nothing, it is only a short period in which Allah is testing us. Be strong and grab your faith with both hands. I have merely come to Syria to seek the satisfaction of our Lord. You should know this life is short, while the life hereafter will last forever.”
There are at least two other Belgians with the name Bali who went to Syria: Brahim and Abdelaziz (both 27). They were mentioned in an affidavit of the Antwerp prosecutor’s office, charging 46 members of Shariah4Belgium with terrorist offences for recruiting or joining the jihad in Syria. Brahim and Abdelaziz are still supposed to be in Syria. Brahim appears to be a nephew of the deceased brothers. He was caught in Yemen while trying to join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) back in 2012. After his expulsion to Belgium, he traveled to Syria with his wife Yasmina Zamrouni (23).
Belgian police meanwhile arrested two young women from Antwerp allegedly trying to leave for Syria. They were caught last week at Brussels Airport and are the first to be detained already in Belgium on the suspicion of wanting to join the jihad. Usually, it is very difficult to prove that intention. But thourough investigations, including telephone taps, seem to be sufficient in this case. The young women are 17 and 19 years old, one of them the sister of a young man already fighting in Syria, and according to extremist sources, their aliases are ‘Oum Abbas’ and ‘Oum Haneefa’.
UPDATE. Following details were released this morning about the two women by ‘Free Aseer Abu Imran’, the Facebook page supporting Shariah4Belgium leader Fouad Belkacem. The information is copy-pasted as published there:
“Oum Abbas is a young muslimconvert who had many trials from Allah Azzawadjal, but that she was not less firm. On the contrary, she was known for her strong will and Iman. And many sisters praise her for her fear of Allah (taqwa), honor and sincerity. That’s why Allah Azzawadjal chose her for this unique trial.
Oum Haneefa is the other dear sister, despite her young age, she had a huge ghierah for the deen that you rarely find these days with regular Muslims. She have been always active in helping and supporting the Muslims. She was known for her kheir towards the Muslim families of the usaraa (prisoners) and ofcourse the needy. If you were in need of something, she would be the first person you would like, whether it was her smile or phonecall or a visit to you. She was always there for you. And we wallahi we testify by Allah Azzawadjal that we will stand up for her, especially as she was always there for us, now that she’s a aseer.
From the Public Ministry is said they are arrested at the airport and they were prevented to travel to Turkey. They were as said on the radar and signaled to Interpol and that they were arrested immediately upon notification. Since then they are detained at the prison of Antwerp, Belgium. They were under suspicion in supporting the case of terrorism, because they supposedly were traveling to Syria.
May Allah ta3ala prevail the truth above all falsehood and lies.
For us, these sisters are truly innocent from the beginning till the end of this. Please keep share this information through your network and make alot of dua’a for them and all of the muslimprisoners.The exact age of the sisters is not mentioned, but from our sources we heard that they are around 18 years old. Oum Abbas is a belgian convert and Oum Haneefa is born in belgium with roots in Morocco.”
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.
Today, a new picture emerged of Brian De Mulder, one of the most famous Belgians fighting in Syria. Raised in a catholic family in Antwerp as son of a mother who immigrated from Brazil, he even made headlines in Time magazine.
The photograph was published on the Facebook account of Hicham Chaïb, another Syria fighter from the city of Antwerp, pictured on the left of De Mulder. Also known as ‘Abu Haniefa’ and ‘Muhajirien As Shaam’, he was part of the triumvirate that took the lead of Shariah4Belgium after it’s founder Fouad Belkacem (a.k.a. Abu Imran) was imprisoned in Belgium.
Chaïb is the only one of those three still alive. Noureddine Abouallal (a.k.a. Abou Mujahid) died last summer while fighting in Syria, and Feisal Yamoun (a.k.a. Abu Faris) was killed there last week. According to the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad‘, security services considered the latter far more important in Shariah4Belgium than public face Belkacem, especially for the recruitement of Syria fighters.
Where the picture of De Mulder and Chaïb was taken — and whether they have fought on the side of Abouallal and Yamoun — isn’t clear. “On the lookout for the sake of Allah’, is the only comment. De Mulder has long been active on Facebook under the alias ‘Abu Qasem Brazili’, but a few weeks ago his account disappeared. It isn’t clear whether De Mulder still communicates with extremists in Belgium, but judging by the 50+ likes his new picture got in about an hour, his popularity there has only increased.
On the internet, photos appeared of a former Shariah4Belgium leader now fighting in Syria. Pictured is Hicham Chaib, who was living in Antwerp and is known as ‘Abu Haniefa’.
He used to be the bodyguard of Shariah4Belgium founder Fouad Belkacem and belonged to the trio that took the lead after Belkacem was arrested. Last year, Chaib spent two months behind bars for his hate speech and disorderly conduct during riots in the Antwerp neighborhood of Borgerhout.
It was already known he traveled to Syria after his release. But the pictures showing him with a kalashnikov assault rifle are the first of a prominent Shariah4Belgium member coming out of Syria. The two other secondants of Belkacem also went to Syria. Abouallal Noureddine (aka ‘Abou Mujahid’) was killed there in July, while Feisal Yamoun (aka ‘Abu Faris’) hasn’t been heard of recently.
One of the leaders of the disbanded extremist group ‘Shariah4Belgium’ has died in Syria, according to his wife who followed her husband of Moroccan descent Noureddine Abouallal (23) last April to the war zone with their two year old son.
Tatiana Wielandt (21) broke the news in a phone call to her sister in Belgium. She only told that Abouallal — nom de guerre ‘Abou Mujahid’ — has died last Wednesday after he was shot. Her sister Jessica can call Tatiana every now and then, she admitted in an interview published last week in the Belgian daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. “But she doesn’t tell me much, fearing that the security services are intercepting our calls.”
According to Tatiana’s father Frank, the family doesn’t even know for sure whether she is in Syria now, or at the Turkish border as she told after her sudden disappearance earlier this year. “But the possibility that she and her son are on their own now in the war zone, truly is unbearable”, he told.
Abouallal’s sister was Tatiana’s best friend. And because her parents couldn’t afford vacations abroad, they allowed Tatiana to join the Abouallal family spending their summer holidays in Morocco. There she fell in love with him. At 18, she converted to islam and married him.
For the teenager Abouallal, religion wasn’t important at all. About nine years ago, he told on his Netlog account that he was interested in soccer, swimming and partying. He made no secret of his desire to fall in love. “Hello, girls”, he wrote, “I am a bit chubby, but when I am on your side, you won’t regret it for sure.”
According to Tatiana’s mother, he only radicalized after their marriage. “When we first met him, he was a modern guy in jeans who had a decent job. But soon after their wedding, he started to wear traditional robes, grew his beard and lost his job.” They called their son Mujahid — ‘fighter’ — and on his Facebook page, Abouallal expressed the hope that his child once would make that name come true.
Abouallal came in the picture as one of the leaders of Shariah4Belgium after founder and mouthpiece of the organization Fouad Belkacem — a.k.a. ‘Abu Imran’ — was jailed in June 2012. At the press conference criticizing that arrest, Abouallal told that Shariah4Belgium never would stop, but instead destroy the Belgian democracy.
In November 2012, he too was arrested a while — after an investigation was opened into possible terrorist activities of Shariah4Belgium. But he was released the same day — and shortly after that, Abouallal left the country to join a radical muslim militia in Syria.
Noureddine Abouallal, a.k.a. ‘Abou Mujahid’, demonstrating against democracy with the slogan: ‘Don’t vote – stay muslim’
Wednesday’s brutal killing of a British soldier in London is proving once again the dangers of the European shariah movement — as I wrote today in Belgium’s largest daily newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws‘. That movement was longtime considered as an annoying but basically harmless phenomenon within the islamist scene. As it was operating fully in the spotlights, nobody thought it ever would be the continent’s main recruiting ground for violent jihad. But now it is.
Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adebolajo (28), one of the two perpetrators from Nigerian descent who nearly decapitated and savagely killed Drummer Lee Rigby (25) on a Woolwich street, was a disciple of Anjem Choudary. No doubt — Choudary did confirm that the guy was one of his followers in the movement Al Muhajiroun, and the BBC unearthed video footage showing both men in one single frame during an islamist manifestation in April, 2007.
On top of that, I discovered that Abu Baraa — ‘nom the guerre’ of Mizanur Rahman, another British hate preacher — told about his own relation with Adebolajo on his Facebook account. “I remember Mujahid was protesting outside the court when I went to prison back in 2006”, he wrote shortly after the Woolwich attack. “He was arrested that day defending Muslims too. He always had the concerns of Muslims at heart.”
Both Choudary and Rahman are proponents of the European shariah movement with direct links to the Belgian chapter. Choudary was the mentor of Shariah4Belgium’s founder Fouad Belkacem and it is a public secret that Choudary pushed Belkacem to launch the organization in the city of Antwerp and thus expand the British born movement to the European continent. He did visit Shariah4Belgium in person for lectures, as did Rahman.
Rahman was four years imprisoned in Britain for inciting to murder — but freely traveled to Antwerp in June 2012 in order to initiate Shariah4Belgium’s members in “Military Tactics”, as his lecture published on YouTube was titled (the video has been removed, but I have it in my archives — see a screenshot here). Nowadays, one of Rahman’s Facebook friends is Fakkul Aseer — campaigner in Dutch to “Free Abu Imran”, a reference to Belkacem’s second arrest in short time — and another is the Antwerp neighborhood Borgerhout’s resident who changed his name as I was writing from ‘Ansaar Antwerpen’ to ‘Soufian Soufian’, and is clearly a member of the same scene.
There is not the slightest proof yet that the Woolwich murderer Adebolajo had significant contacts abroad. But he clearly did belong to an international orientated part of the British islamist scene. Last example: Abdulrahman Al-Mujahir, a Facebook friend of Abu Baraa, Fakkul Aseer and Soufian Soufian. He too knows Adebolajo rather well, as he wrote: “He is a very polite, courteous and caring brother from my experience with him.”
The Woolwich attack is a new example of the small scale terrorism that Al Qaeda is promoting nowadays, with perpetrators not necessarily belonging to a well organized network. But they are not as lonely as the often used expression ‘lone wolves’ seems to implicate. They do find encouragement and practical help on the internet — in the notorious magazine ‘Inspire’ for example, that already explicitly called for attacks against soldiers in western countries.
‘Lone wolves’ often find their inspiration in real life too. In groups that cannot be pinpointed as terrorist organizations, though they are not far from that and do facilitate the way towards the real jihad. Such as Shariah4Belgium, with it’s knife wielding follower attacking two police officers in Brussels last year — a case which easily could have been as serious as the Woolwich one. It surely is remarkable how often groups related to and sharing the same dna as Shariah4Belgium, appear to be the circles were lone wolves do come from.
That was the case with Mohamed Merah, the French muslim who killed seven people last year — clearly targeting soldiers too. He was at least loosely associated with Forsane Alizza, the French equivalent with personal links towards Shariah4Belgium. It was also the case with Arid Uka, the guy who killed two American soldiers in Frankfurt, and is said to be inspired by ‘Millatu Ibrahim‘, the German sister organization. And now the same can be told about the London attack.
For European security services, this new reality is a nightmare. Apart from the difficulties to detect a terrorist plot that is not that organized — as often is highlighted when speaking about the characteristics of ‘lone wolf attacks’ — with this kind of recruiting ground it is also terribly hard to distinguish were bluff and provocations end and real threats start.