Belgian born gypsy named as top recruiter for jihad in Syria

In Spain and Morocco, authorities announced today the arrest of seven members of a recruiting network for jihad. The man considered to be the leader appears to be a Belgian born gypsy who converted from christianity to islam and boasted of his activities all over the internet.

Mustafá Maya Amaya's picture distributed by  Spanish authorities

Mustafá Maya Amaya’s picture distributed by Spanish authorities

Mustafá Maya Amaya (51) was arrested in Melilla, one of the Spanish exclaves on the coast of Morocco. There he lived in an appartment in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city, La Cañada de Hidum. He tried to rally his neighbors for the improvement of their living conditions with one of more than a dozen blogs that he managed — this one being a rare exception not dedicated to radical islam.

His Spanish identity card shows that he was born in the Belgian capital Brussels. Apparently, he has been living there for quite a while. On Facebook, where he’s using the alias ‘Abou Soufian Boussire‘, he mentioned ‘Pierre Boon’ as one of his former employers. A name that seems to refer to a well known Belgian firm active in event logistics such as the rental of tents. The company has been an official purveyor to the Belgian royal household.

According to another blog, his father Rafael was a Spanish gypsy and his mother Emilia of Castilian/Andalucian Spanish descent. He converted to islam more than sixteen years ago and being paralysed on the right side of his body, he’s confined to a wheelchair already for a decade. His parents were christians and before he converted to islam, his name reportedly was José Domínguez.

His radical religious views are known since 2001, when he was thrown out of a mosque in the southern Spanish city of Málaga for defending the Afghan taliban and attacking a fellow muslim who told him that Jews too have the right to exist. At that moment, Maya reportedly also admitted that he had served eight years in a Spanish jail for robbery and drug trafficking.

Those former encounters with the police didn’t teach him discretion though. He openly boasted of his activities as a recruiter for the jihad in countries such as Syria and Mali, giving detailed instructions for people wanting to fight and publishing entire conversations with his recruits on his blog ‘Ansar Tawhid‘ and his Google+ account with the user name ‘Abou Soufian Motamed’.

“I’ll show you a conversation with a young brother who I’ve helped to depart”, he wrote last month. The brother is using the alias ‘Ihƌb’ and appears to be a seventeen year old muslim living in the French capital Paris. At the start of their conversation in December 2013, apparently conducted via private messages on Facebook, he isn’t in Syria yet.

“There’s a little boy of fifteen years old that I know from Facebook but never have met”, the recruit is telling Maya. “He wants to join and asks me to pay for his flight to Turkey. Do you think it’s better to travel alone?” Maya confirms with a short “YES”, written in capitals. “Okay”, the French teenager replies, “In that case I’ll leave him home.”

At the end of January 2014, Frenchman ‘Ihƌb’ is in Syria. “I’m with Dawla for a month now”, he writes, meaning the extremist group ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Sham’ (ISIS). “Should I stay with them or switch to Jabhat Al-Nusra?” he asks . “If you have passed the training already, it’s better to stay”, Maya advises. “Then I have to go to Iraq with them”, the recruit replies.

‘Ihƌb’ explains he is part of a group with ten people from Strassbourg in France. “I probably know some of them”, Maya writes. “I did help people from there.” Then, they discuss the infighting between ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra — the official branch of Al Qaeda in Syria. Maya admits that he is sending fighters to both. “But it’s confusing now”, he says.