Belgian Jihadi’s in Syria
Belgium always had a bit of a dual relationship with it’s numerous immigrants from the Maghreb and Turkey. In the 1960’s Belgium heavily encouraged migration from Morocco and Turkey. They would be cheaper work forces for the steel and coal industry that made Belgium one of the creators of the European Union. The first major economic union in Europe was named the European Coal and Steel Community, formed by the Treaty of Paris (1951). The ECSC consisted out of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Western-Germany (BRD) and France. This economic community formed the basis for the current European Union.
As for the immigrants, when heavy industry faded away in Belgium, they remained and had families back here. Now we face the third and fourth generation of these immigrants; people who still live in the margins of society. The Belgium government over the last several decades never really succeeded integrating the Islamic communities. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s Moroccon youth was renowned for crimes like drug-dealing, theft, … and many of them were jobless yet drove around in big cars like Mercedes and BMW.
Anyway, the inability to integrate (or the lack of will to do so by some) during the last few decades, led to the creation of the Salafist movement Sharia4Belgium on March 3 2010. Their spokesman Fouad Belkacem (aka Abu Imran) was soon branded persona non grata on public fora. Under heavy public pressure and after several judicial actions against the group, Sharia4Belgium dissolved itself on October 7 2012.
Photo 1: Fouad Belkacem, spokesman of Sharia4Belgium
Meanwhile the war in Syria had been raging for about a year and a half. Reports started appearing claiming European Muslims were fighting in Syria. It would only take a couple of months before the first Belgian and Dutch Jihadi’s were identified. On February 16th 2013 I reposted another horrible video from Syria (first published by @hlk01), the Dutch journalist @HaraldDoornbos picked it up and retweeted me. It took exactly 3 minutes before a Dutch tweep replied us. He heard Dutch in the video he said. Later that week, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, published an article claiming that Dutch security forces (AIVD) were already investigating the matter.
On March 7th Eurojust first confirmed that there were Belgians amongst the European Jihadi’s in Syria. On March 15th and 16th 2013 Harald Doornbos and myself were attended to three YouTube video’s (originally posted by Halab NewsNetwork and in the meanwhile deleted by Google) in which I clearly heard some Flemish guys. Some Belgian media copied my blog and published it on their websites. This is how the madness in Belgium on Jihadi-fighters in Syria all started. The parents of Brian De Mulder and Jejoen Bontinck recognized their sons in the video’s I posted. The Belgian far right extremist party Vlaams Belang succeeded in luring in one of the families for their own propaganda and father Bontinck even went to Syria in search for his son. All blamed Sharia4Belgium.
Since then reports about the Belgian Jihadi’s appeared weekly. On April 10 2013 the Belgian weekly magazine Knack published an article on the Belgian Jihadi’s in Syria, claiming that already 12 of them were killed (these reports as of today remain unconfirmed). Here is an overview of those who died fighting in Syria or those who got arrested trying to get there.
On 22nd of June Belgian newspapers De Standaard and De Morgen gave an extensive overview of the developents concerning Belgian Jihadi’s in Syria. This all because of the announcement of the death of ‘Abd ar-Rahmān Ayāshī, a French-Syrian who had left Belgium back in 2012 after he was sentenced to 8 years in jail. ‘Abd ar-Rahmān Ayāshī became a battalion-leader of Suqūr as-Shām, leading about 600 in battle.
Photo 2: ‘Abd ar-Rahmān Ayāshī
Ayāshī was the son of the Sheikh Bassām Ayāshī, a Syrian living in Molenbeek, Brussels. In the past the Ayāshī-family was suspect to several investigations by the Belgian authorities (since September 2009).
A few months ago, the friend of Ayāshī, the French Raphael Gendron (at the right on this pic) was killed in Syria. Perhaps he was one of the first “Belgian” Jihadi’s that got killed in Syria.
Photo 3: ‘Abd ar-Rahmān Ayāshī and Raphael Gendron in Syria
In this video Sheikh Ayāshī reacts to the death of his “two” sons in Syria.
Here is a very recent interview with the killed battalion leader published on YouTube on June 23rd
There is no doubt that the deaths of Gendron and Ayāshī are the biggest losses for “our Belgian fighters” in Syria.
Others proven killed are:
- Sean Pidgeon (Brussels)
- Tāriq Taqlitūn (Vilvoorde). He was killed in his apartment in Syria. His Belgian wife says he was allowed to pray one last time and then got executed.
- according to Hans Bonte, mayor of Vilvoorde, at least two other (unidentified ?) youngsters from his city got killed recently
- a new victim in the ranks of Sharia4Belgium is Nur ad-Din Abouallal aka Abu Mujahid, allegedly killed in Syria around 25th of July. His death was reported by his Belgian wife who stays behind with their two year old son …
Photo 4: Nur ad-Din Abouallal aka Abu Mujahid, Sharia4Belgium’s second man
- August 21st: Isma’il Amgroud, 22, Maaseik, Belgium. He left Maaseik early April an died in Syria late June. He was the youngest of three who left Maaseik to fight in Syria. All of them were officialy deleted from civil registrations.
- August 22nd: three inhabitants of Genk are arrested at the Greek-Turkish border. One of the arrested was a 26 year old Italian, who converted to Islam. One of the other men arrested was most likely his father. They returned to Genk and are under supervision of the authorities.
- August 28th: Hans Bonte, Mayor of Vilvoorde, in an interview in Belgian newspapers, claims that at least 25 youngsters from his city left or will leave for Syria.
- September 13th: Belgian newspapers report that Houssein Elouassaki aka Abu Fallujah, alleged leader of most of the Belgian Jihadi’s fighting in Syria, was killed in battle in the beginning of August. (Elouassaki was the supposed leader of the Ansār-brigade of Majlis Shūra al-Mujahidīn near Aleppo – accused of a gruesome beheading). It is reported that the Belgian fighters left their base in Daret Izza, after Elouassaki was killed.
- September 16th: Muhammad Bali, 22 years old was killed in Syria. Muhammad was a student of Applied Economics and left for Syria on November 20, 2012. His younger brother Khalid (17 years old) and an older nephew Brahim (27) are still fighting in Syria. Brahim is allegedly one of the pioneers of Sharia4Belgium.
- September 25th: Abdelgabar Hamdaoui (34) was killed in Syria. He was the brother of Hassan and Driss (in Syria) and Asmani (still in Belgium). Amongst others, these four brothers were expected in court a few weeks back; only 5 of 14 accused showed up. The other ones allegedly left for Jihad in Syria.
- September 26th: Ahmed Dihaj, alledgedly one of the leaders of Sharia4Belgium, presumably died.
Others still fighting in Syria:
- about 33 members of the former Salafi-group Sharia4Belgium. Best known: Jejoen Bontinck and Brian De Mulder (both from Antwerp)
- about 150 to 200 Belgian fighters
As most research during the last half year pointed out it is believed that some Belgians joined Jabhat an-Nusra although most of them first aligned with Majlis as-Shura al-Mujahidin (currently a sub-group of ISIS) or Katībat al-Muhājirīn (led by the Chechen Jihadi Abū ‘Umar as-Shīshāīi and recently merged with two other groups into Jaysh Muhājirīn wa Ansār). Most Belgian Jihadi’s appear to be fighting in or near Aleppo and Idlib. According to recent Belgian reports most of them were based in the village of Daret Izza in the Northern Aleppo province.
It is highly likely that as the Syrian conflict continues to go on there will be more fighters that will join up with the rebels. The Belgian government is worried for their return due to the possibility these newly trained fighters could then plot attacks on the homeland.
Here is a video, purportedly by one the Belgian fighters in Syria. In the video the unknown man explains why they are in Syria, what is driving them to Jihad; but most importantly he calls upon the islamic youth in Brussels, Vilvorde, Mechelen, Antwerp and Ghent to join the war in Syria or to attack Europe itself. He hereby is the first Belgian fighter in Syria (in my knowledge) who openly calls for terrorist attacks in Europe.