From Grozny to Raqqah with stopover Brussels – The ‘Eastern Contingent’ of Belgian foreign terrorist fightersPosted: 2017/08/29
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, 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.” 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”. 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.
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.
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 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.
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. The so-called Zerkani network apparently has none.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. That same Akhmad Chatayev was identified in 2015 as the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion, a Chechen faction of Islamic State, and in 2016 he was named as mastermind of the Istanbul airport attack in which 44 people died.
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 — 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.
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, 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 – a move he could reportedly avoid thanks to interference by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
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. In August 2016, the man with dual Belgian and Russian nationality was convicted to four years in jail. But again, we haven’t found any detail about how he would have been radicalized while living in Belgium.
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.
List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict
- 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
- Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012
- Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012
- 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
- Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date
- 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
- Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013
- Anonymous fighterfrom Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family
- 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
- Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013
- Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013
- Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013
- Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013
- Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013
- Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013
- Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate
- Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Youness Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate
- 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
- 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
- Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013
- 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
- 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
- Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
- Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014
- 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
- Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014
- 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
- 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
- Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014
- Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014
- Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo
- 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
- 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
- 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
- AnonymousBelgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate
- 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
- Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014
- Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate on August 31, 2014
- Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014
- 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
- 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
- Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate
- 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
- Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014
- Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014
- 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
- Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015
- Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015
- 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
- Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015
- 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
- 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
- Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate
- Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015
- 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
- Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier
- 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
- Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015
- Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015
- 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
- Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015
- Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah
- Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015
- Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015
- Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015
- 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
- Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of IS according to court documents dating from 2016
- AnonymousBelgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016
- Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016
- AnonymousBelgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016
- Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) on April 8 or 9, 2016
- 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
- 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
- AnonymousBelgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016
- 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
- Nasser Azzouzi, fighter from the city of Verviers who left in August 2014, killed at unknown date according to information gathered in August 2016
- Zakaria Asbai, aka Abu Zubair, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde whose death at undisclosed time and location was reported in August 2016
- Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August 2016
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Abu Omar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of Jabhat Fath as-Sham , the former Jabhat an-Nusra, in November 2016
- Hicham Naji, aka Abu Mehdi, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who was reportedly killed in Islamic State ranks in November 2016
- 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
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter reportedly killed on January 15, 2017 in al-Andalus neighborhood of Mosul
- 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
- Zacharia Iddoub, aka Abu Yahya Beljiki, Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde reportedly killed by air strike on January 17, 2017 at undisclosed location
- 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
- Anonymous Belgian fighter reportedly killed in the ranks of IS during clashes with the Syrian army near Deir ez-Zor around May 10, 2017
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
 The names were published in seven separate Royal Decrees, which can be found here:
 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
 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
 All statements about Chalil Man are taken from the court documents mentioned in the preceding two footnotes
 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/
 According to a French investigation document in the possession of the authors
 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
 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/
 Kristof Pieters & Guy Van Vlierden, Uit Syrië teruggekeerde Romazigeuner gevat, Het Laatste Nieuws, 7 December 2016
 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
 Kristof Aerts & José Masschelin, Van vrijspraak naar 8 jaar cel, Het Laatste Nieuws, 9 January 2014
 Per Gudmundson, Efterlyses: enarmade tjetjener, gudmundson.blogspot.be, 2 March 2009. Available online at http://gudmundson.blogspot.be/2009/03/efterlyses-enarmade-tjetjener.html
 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
 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
 Thea Swierstra, OCMW Antwerpen stelt leefloners tewerk in tuinbouw, De Morgen, 20 April 2007
 Inge Ghijs, Erkend politiek vluchteling door Griekenland uitgeleverd, De Standaard, 27 March 2013
 Inge Ghijs, Belgische politieke vluchteling weer thuis, De Standaard, 18 May 2013
 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
James Foley, the American reporter beheaded last week, shared a prison cell with former Belgian fighter Jejoen Bontinck for at least three weeks. Reportedly, they were held at that time by Bontinck’s former comrades from Shariah4Belgium, who brandished Jejoen as a traitor because he wanted to go home.
It was CEO Philip Balboni of GlobalPost, the American news site for which Foley was working in Syria, who broke the news about his deplored journalist and Jejoen Bontinck knowing each other. “In September 2013, a young Belgian who had travelled to fight in Syria had befriended Foley and, once that jihadist went back to Belgium, offered excellent information on roughly where Jim was held and by whom”, he was quoted by NBC News. “It was the first time we knew that Jim was alive. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment.” Balboni didn’t mention the name of the Belgian — but that wasn’t hard to find for anyone familiar with the phenomenon of Belgian fighters in Syria.
Jejoen Bontinck (19) went to Syria in February, 2013. He converted to islam a few years before and joined the radical organization ‘Shariah4Belgium’. He says he didn’t want to fight, but provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Disgusted by the violence of war, he wanted to go home already in March of that year. But his comrades from Shariah4Belgium with whom he teamed together, considered him as a traitor or even a spy, and imprisoned him for several months. He was held in Aleppo, the northern Syrian city which was the main stronghold of the radical islamic resistance at that time.
Bontinck was never a prisoner of the Islamic State, his lawyer Kris Luyckx explained to the Belgian newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. Although most of his Belgian comrades now have joined the extremely brutal group, at that time they were still active under the banner of ‘Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen’ or ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’. That Bontinck was held together with Islamic State victim Foley — as confirmed by Luyckx — is consistent with the claim that Foley’s abduction was carried out by of one of those groups. When the American got caught in November 2012, the Islamic State didn’t exist yet in Syria. It was founded in April 2013 as ISIS — the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Sham’.
“Bontinck and Foley shared a cell for at least three weeks around August of last year”, says Luyckx. “And they weren’t the only Westerners — there was a European journalist too. Apparently, the two reporters were later transfered to ar-Raqqah, and it must have been there Foley was held by the British fighters that are known now as ‘The Beatles’. Jejoen has never met the guy who killed Foley or one of his accomplices. He always stayed in the hands of his former comrades of Shariah4Belgium.” If that is true, it means that Foley too was held by the Belgians for some time.
It isn’t clear whether they were also involved in Foley’s abduction — and an important question that also remains, is whether it were Bontinck’s former brothers in arms who have delivered Foley directly to those who’ve killed him now. The Belgian judiciary has indicted thirteen people for taking Bontinck hostage — based on the names he reportedly mentioned himself — and at least some of those people can be suspected in Foley’s case too. All belong to a group of 46 that has to stand trial this fall — although for most of them it will be a trial in absentia, since they are still fighting in Syria or were killed in action there.
Of the thirteen former Shariah4Belgium members that are indicted for imprisoning Bontinck, at least four have died already: Houssien Elouassaki from Vilvoorde, Nabil Azahaf from Brussels, Noureddine Abouallal from Antwerp and Yassine El Karouni — a Dutchman that apparently has spent most of his last years in Antwerp. Of those who are considered still alive, the highest ranking is Hicham Chaïb, alias ‘Abu Haniefa’. He became one of the leaders of Shariah4Belgium after the imprisonment of it’s founder Fouad Belkacem. Chaïb is living in ar-Raqqah now, where he was seen already in the company of senior Islamic State commander Abu Waheed.
The remaining eight names are Azeddine Kbir Bounekoub, Said M’Nari, Brahim El Mimouni and Fouad Akrich from Antwerp — Zakaria Asbai and Magomed Saralapov from Vilvoorde — Rachid Iba from Maaseik — and Redouan Akdim from Naarden in the Netherlands. Noteworthy is that Iba was already convicted as a member of the terrorist ‘Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain’ back in 2006, that Kbir Bounekoub has appeared in a gruesome video with dead bodies in Syria, and that Akrich is one of the exceptions who stayed in the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra — a fact that has ignited already vicious debates on Facebook, where he’s still a ‘friend’ of his former comrades who went to the Islamic State.
Jejoen was freed in September 2013 and after his return in Belgium, he was intensively interrogated by security services of several countries. According to his lawyer, the information he provided about the location where he and Foley were held, has been the motor behind the rescue operation undertaken for Foley by American elite soldiers. But the details Bontinck gave about his prison — “near a courthouse and a hospital”, for instance — were about the place where he was held in Aleppo. And apparently the raid took place at a time Foley was moved to ar-Raqqah already.