Belgian Fighters in Syria and Iraq ~ August 2014


The total number of Belgian fighters in Syria and Iraq is stable at a total of 385. The number of killed Belgians has risen to 34 in total. The number of those returned in our count would be about 27 (official numbers however of the Belgian government speak of at least 70 who have returned).

Group affiliation & current Location:

At least 59 (corrected, formerly 60) of the Belgians who are or have been in Syria are in some way affiliated to Sharia4Belgium. Of these at least 28 have proven ties with the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS). One still fights in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra and one, who has arrived on May 2nd 2014, claims to be affiliated with Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa’l-Ansar. It must be pointed out however still more of the unidentified are most likely fighting in the ranks of these last two groups. This could be explained by the mere fact that outside IS the use of social media is in some way regulated.

In total at least 50 Belgians are affiliated with the Islamic State, 10 are linked to Jabhat an-Nusra (plus two since last update), one with Kata’ib Al Muhajireen Fi Ard Sham, the previously mentioned one with Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa’l-Ansar, one is linked to Liwa Shuhada Idlib, one is affiliated with Faylaq as-Sham and 10 are linked to Suqur as-Sham.

For the first time we also found a Belgian fighting on the side of the regime. One guy from Mazée (Namur) is openly proud about fighting in the ranks of Bashar al-Assad’s army. At least two Belgian fighters are now in Iraq.

Origins & Identities:

Of the 385 Belgians fighting in Syria, 20 of them females, 113 have been identified fully and an additional 38 are known by one or more kunya’s (nom de guerre). Hereby the total of (semi-) identified Belgians fighting in Syria and Iraq is a bit over 130.

As for their origins; the previous trend continuously builds up:

  1. Brussels : 54
  2. Antwerp : 46
  3. Vilvoorde : 25
  4. Mechelen stable at a maximum of 14; only one female identified by kunya
  5. 10 people originate from smaller towns or cities.

It still remains remarkable most of the known Belgian fighters stem from Flanders and especially the axis Antwerp – Mechelen – Vilvorde – Brussels. As noted in the previous update the amount of Walloon fighters stays remarkably low (updated to three, including the pro-regime fighter)

We know the ages of about 100 of them, varying between 13 (Younes Abaaoud) and 65 (Shaykh Bassam al-Ayashi). The average age of the Belgian fighters is about 24,5 years old.


As far as our open source intelligence gathering allowed us, we were able to locate 73 Belgians in Syria. Some of them over the course of due time moved to ar-Raqqa as they became affiliated with the Islamic State.

Original count:

  1. Aleppo : 35
  2. Idlib : 12
  3. ar-Raqqa : 9 (most of them recently arrived)
  4. Homs : 7
  5. Damascus : 5
  6. Latakkia : 3
  7. Deir ez-Zor: 1
  8. Saraqib : 1

Updated count:

  1. Aleppo : 2 (but most likely more based on recent field-research by Montasser AlDe’meh. 
  2. Idlib : 4
  3. ar-Raqqa : 20
  4. Homs : 0
  5. Damascus : 4
  6. Latakkia : 0 (killed in action)
  7. Deir ez-Zor : 0 (killed in action)
  8. Saraqib : 0 (killed in action)

The Belgian “Convoy of Martyrs”:

(in random order)

  1. Abd ar-Rahman al-Ayashi (aka Abu Hajjar), 38, Idlib, Suqur as-Sham
  2. Abdalgabar Hamdaoui, 34. Previously incorrectly linked to Sharia4Belgium, killed fighting in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra
  3. Abdel Monaïm Lachiri (aka Abu Sara), 33, Aleppo, ISIS
  4. Abu al-Bara’ al-Jaza’iri, N/A, Saraqib
  5. Abu Ali al-Baljiki, Idlib
  6. Ahmed Dihaj (aka Abu Atiq), 32, Sharia4Belgium, Jabhat an-Nusra
  7. Ahmed Stevenberg, Lattakia
  8. Anonymous (Vilvoorde)
  9. Anonymous (Vilvoorde)
  10. Anonymous (Brussels)
  11. Faysal Yamoun (aka Abu Faris al-Maghribi), 30, Antwerp, Sharia4Belgium, Jabhat an-Nusra
  12. Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, 32, Latakkia
  13. Houssien Elouassaki (aka Abu Fallujah), 22, Vilvoorde, Aleppo, Sharia4Belgium
  14. Isma’il Amghroud, 22, Maaseik, killed June 2013
  15. Khalid Bali (aka Abu Hamza), 17, Antwerpen, Deir ez-Zor, Sharia4Belgium, ISIS, killed May 2014
  16. Mohammed Bali (aka Abu Hudayfa), 24, Antwerp, Sharia4Belgium, ISIS, killed in Hama
  17. Noureddine Abouallal (aka Abu Mujahid), 23, Antwerp, Sharia4Belgium, killed in July 2013
  18. Raphael Gendron (aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa), 38, Brussels, Suqur as-Sham, Idlib, killed in April 2013
  19. Sean Pidgeon, Left Belgium in November 2012, killed in March 2013.
  20. Tarik Taketloune, Vilvoorde, 19, Sharia4Belgium, brother and wife still in Syria, killed in May 2013
  21. Younis Asad Rahman (aka Asad ar-Rahman al-Baljiki), Latakkia, killed in August 2013
  22. Saïd El Morabit (aka Abu Muthanna al-Baljiki), 27, Sharia4Belgium, ISIS, killed in March 2014
  23. Abu ‘Umar, ISIS (Brussels)
  24. Rustam Gelayev (son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev), Aleppo, killed in August 2012
  25. Nabil Azahaf (aka Abu Sayyaf), 21, Brussels, Sharia4Belgium, ISIS, killed in May 2014
  26. Anonymous, known as Abu Dujana Al Mali, ISIS, ar-Raqqa, killed in March 2014
  27. Karim Azzam (aka Abou Azzam), 23, Brussels, killed in April 2014
  28. Anonymous, known as Abu Salma Al-Belgiki, Deir ez-Zor province, killed in August 2013
  29. Anonymous, known as Abu Handalah, killed in Aleppo
  30. Anonymous, killed in clashes with tribal fighters on July 30th 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor province (see here for details)
  31. Iliass Azaouaj, 23, Brussels, killed by The Islamic State for alledged betrayal. Raqqa, August 2014 (source)
  32. Abu Jihad al-Baljiki, further unknown, killed on August 31st in a regime counter-attack defending the Deir ez-Zor military airport. (source)
  33. Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, further unknown, killed on August 31st in a regime counter-attack defending the Deir ez-Zor military airport. (source)

13 comments on “Belgian Fighters in Syria and Iraq ~ August 2014

  1. hendrikvanhellem says:

    You write that 54 come from “Brussels”. Do you mean by this the Region (Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest) or the City of Brussels?

    Henk Van hellem

    Op 24-aug.-2014 om 23:16 heeft pietervanostaeyen het volgende geschreven:

  2. Als u mij een e-mailadres bezorgt, doe ik dat

  3. […] Relative to population, Belgium is the European country that has supplied the highest number of jihadists to Syria. At least 59 of the 385 Belgians registered by researcher Pieter van Ostaeyen as being active in Syria or Iraq are connected to the Belgian extremist group Sharia4Belgium. The number is likely higher, as only about 113 of the Belgians have been fully identified. […]

  4. flaviaciontu says:

    I am doing an internship for Zaman newspaper and I am preparing an article on the situation of Belgian foreign fighters. I would like to have your opinion on some matters regarding this subject. If you want to cooperate and answer some questions, can you provide me with some contact information?

  5. If we talk about foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria it is very significant, that Belgians are overrepresented compared to other European countries. Why? Okay, maybe Muslims in Belgium are less integrated than elsewhere, but in my opinion, this aint the only answer. Maybe the fact that -according to your data- a lot fighters came via Sharia4Belgium is important. (Regional) Groups like these lead as well in other countries a lot of fighters to go to Syria or Iraq. In Germany this has been seen a lot in some “hot islamist centres” like Solingen, Dinslaken or Ulm. There has been big numbers of fighters who went to the war and it may be a result of group pressure or something like a “collective decision”.
    Also your coverage together with Guy van Vlierden and the data base, which is significantly better than in other countries. For example: German intelligence says, they think that there are “about 400” German fighters, but they cannot verify exact data. Nor can the UK or France. There is no public media coverage like the data base you have and work with. Maybe the intelligence has data, but it is not public.

  6. […] partir de ses recherches en ligne, Pieter Van Ostaeyen a constitué une base de donnéesdes combattants belges dans les rangs djihadistes en Syrie et en Irak, que les autorités belges […]

  7. […] Belgian fighters in Iraq and Syria, les combattants djihadistes belges, maintenu par un bénévole ; […]

  8. […] The backdrop Belgium has seen a relatively large number of people go to Syria to fight. In July, independent researcher Pieter van Ostaeyen estimated that 385 Belgian citizens or residents are taking part in the Syrian civil war. At least 50 of them are in some way affiliated with Sharia4Belgium, van Ostaeyen writes on his blog. […]

  9. […] and Iraq. Yet out of a total of 385 or more Belgian foreign fighters in Syria, at least 59 have come from his organisation alone (and the number is probably higher) according to researcher and historian Pieter Van Ostaeyen. One […]

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