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Belgium’s viper’s nest of Salafi ‘Bros’

Alexander Athos

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There are many reasons why Belgium has become a hotbed of radical Islamism. Some of the answers may lie in the implanting of Saudi Salafist preachers in the country from the 1960s. Keen to secure oil contracts, Belgium’s King Baudouin made an offer to Saudi King Faisal, who had visited Brussels in 1967: Belgium would set up a mosque in the capital, and hire Gulf-trained clerics.

At the time, Belgium was encouraging Moroccan and Turkish workers to come into the country as cheap labour. The deal between the two Kings would make the mosque their main place of worship…. the Saudis, through their Wahhabi slush fund the Muslim World League in 1978 opened the Great Mosque of Brussels, as well as the seat of the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium (ICC).

On March, 22, 2016 Brussels Wahabi Salafis attacked Brussels Belgium: Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station which in total killed at least 31 people and injured up to 270. The Salafi Jihadist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Many of the terrorists had connections with Molenbeek District of Brussels, long considered a major terrorist center in Europe second only to ‘Londonistan’. Brussels itself has a 70% emigre population especially from Morocco. Out of a population of only 11 million, 500,000 are Muslims mainly as a result of rampant Moroccan and Turkish immigration. More than 500 young Muslim men have been radicalized to join ISIS in Syria. Many of them coming home target their own country for Salafist Jihad. They get support from the 90,000 Muslims of Moroccan, Algerian and Turkish decent living in Molenbeek. There are from 20 Mosques and dozens of Salafist prayer halls in Molenbeek. With Salafism on the rise, this ghetto is a tinder box of anti-Western animosity fueled by Saudi sponsored Wahhabi Salafi Imam hate preachers.

George Dallemagne, a Belgian member of parliament for the centre-right CDH, an opposition party has identified thee heart to the terror problem springing out of Muslim communities. says the Salafist clerics have tried to undermine attempts by Moroccan immigrants to integrate into Belgium. “We like to think Saudi Arabia is an ally and friend, but the Saudis are always engaged in double-talk: they want an alliance with the West when it comes to fighting Shias in Iran, but nonetheless have a conquering ideology when it comes to their religion in the rest of the world,” he said.

Mr Dallemagne has sponsored many resolutions in the Belgian parliament aimed at loosening ties with Saudi Arabia, and reducing the Salafist influence in Belgium. “We can’t have a dialogue with countries that want to destabilise us,” he says. “The problem is that it is only recently that authorities are finally opening their eyes to this.”

Najim Laachraoui (aka, Soufiane Kayal ) aged 24 (dead). He is reported to have been an ISIS recruiter and who travelled to Syria in 2013 and was travelling with Salah Abdeslam. He is suspected of being the bomb maker of the bombs in Brussels as well as Paris. This Wahhabi Salafi is dead.

Ibrahim el-Bakraoui (dead)

Khalid el-Bakraoui aged 27, was one of the metro bombers. He was a previous criminal jailed for armed robbery. This Wahhabi Salafi is also now dead.

Ibrahim el-Bakraoui aged 29, blew himself up at Zaventem airport. He had previously been deported from Turkey to Holland (at his own request) in 2015 as an Ex-ISIS fighter. A confused and scared message left on an abandoned computer by Ibrahim El Bakraoui indicates the Brussels attack may have been brought forward because the group was worried that police were closing in after Abdeslam’s arrest. “Hunted everywhere… no longer safe,” Ibrahim said in the message. “I don’t know what to do.”

Prior to this terror attack the two brothers were suspected of hiring properties as hideouts for the terrorist team that hit Paris in November 2015.

Mohamed Abrini 31, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, is believed to be part of the terror group involved in the Brussels attack. He is on the run. Abrini is a childhood friend of Salah Abdeslam — their families used to be next-door neighbors in Molenbeek.

Just five days before the Brussels terror attacks, on 17 March this year Police raided a Brussels neighborhood to try and apprehend 2 suspects in the November Paris attacks. One suspect brandishing a Kalashnikov rifle was shot dead by police. Thierry Werts, of the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said the man was petty criminal Mohamed Belkaïd, a 35-year-old Algerian living illegally in Belgium. Next to his body was found an ISIS flag and a book on Salafism. In his flat was a large amount of ammunition. Belkaïd originally immigrated to Sweden and from there joined ISIS in Syria before coming to live in Belgium. The flat he was in was also a safe house for Abdeslam and the el-Bakraoui brothers.

Links to Paris November 2015 attacks

The French after November 2015 now admit their failings to halt the rising tide of Wahhabi Salafi hate.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also sought to distance himself from his colleague’s words, saying he did not want “to lecture our Belgian friends”. “We closed our eyes, everywhere in Europe and including France, to the rise of extremist Salafist ideas in neighbourhoods where a mix of drug trafficking and radical Islam have led astray… some of the youth,” Valls told Europe 1 radio.

Salah Abdeslam, the only known survivor of 10 Islamist attackers who killed 130 people in a string of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris in November was arrested in the Molenbeek district Belgium on Friday 18 March 2016 along with four other suspects including Monir Ahmed Alaaj. “Belgian police checking if man detained is Paris terror attack suspect”. CNN. 18 March 2016.

This district (which has a 80% Muslim population) has long been a center for Salafist extremism and gang violence. Dozens of ISIS fighters come from this cease pit. It is also the district from which the logistics and planning took place for attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Paris. “Several of the Paris attackers, including Abdeslam and ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, came from the troubled area which has been dubbed Europe’s ‘jihadi haven’.”

It is little wonder that within hours of Abdeslam and 4 other Salafi thugs arrest the Muslim ghetto had their Salafi hate preachers on cell phones stirring up the local Muslim population which erupted in violence and rioting, angered at the Jihadist’s arrest on their turf.

“ Riot police were called in to disperse the crowds who gathered in the Brussels suburb after missiles were thrown at the Belgian authorities. Tensions were sparked after young people from the troubled area started declaring their support for their “hero” Abdeslam, according to a witness. An eyewitness posted on Twitter: “Great tension in Molenbeek with young people from the area praising their ‘hero’ Salah Abdeslam.”

Just days before the Paris attacks in November 2015, the French daily newspaper “Libération” wrote, “For thirty years, the Great Mosque of Brussels has been an active Salafist refuge, offering fertile soil for their networks to grow.”

The paper quoted Islam expert Michel Privot of the European Network Against Racism: “Salafist sentiments are solidly anchored in the minds of Muslims in the Belgian capital.” The phenomenon, he says, can be traced back to Saudi Arabia’s missionary zeal in Brussels. “Belgian authorities have been playing with fire (regarding this issue) for 30 years.”

Paris attack suspects

Najim Laachraoui, 24, (previously known by his alias, Soufiane Kayal). He is reported to have travelled to Syria in 2013 and was travelling with Salah Abdeslam in September 2015 when their car was stopped at the Hungarian border with Austria. He was an organizer of the November Paris attacks. He died in the attack on the airport in Brussels.

Mohamed Abrini, 31, a Belgian of Moroccan origin,and a petty criminal is on the run. Abrini is a childhood friend of Salah Abdeslam — their families used to be next-door neighbours in Salalfi infested Molenbeek.

Also in the car was Mohammed Belkaid (aka Samir Bouzid), who was later shot dead by a police sniper in a raid in Brussels in the operation that led to Abdeslam’s capture three days later on March 15 2016.

France has been on high alert since the 13 November attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds. Cazenueve said there had been 75 arrests since the beginning of the year, and 28 suspects had been jailed. Raids in the Argenteuil suburb of Paris following the arrest of the man at 5.30pm on Thursday who was believed to be planning a terrorist attack. A building was evacuated and sniffer dogs and anti-mine experts are at the scene to search for explosives. Triacetone triperoxide (TATP), which was used in the Paris attacks in November, has become ISIS’ explosive of choice in Europe. Specialists in bomb detection explain why.

Bilal Benyaich, a Belgian who has written extensively on radicalism, extremism, and terrorism, was quoted as saying by Foreign Policy magazine after the Paris attacks in November said of Belgium’s Salafist problem: “There are no factories, no jobs — except for those who speak both French and Dutch or have a university degree — and 60 percent of these young people with a Muslim background do not have a degree and do not speak Dutch,”

The problem of alienation in Molenbeek also stems in part from Belgium’s decision in the 1970s to allow preachers trained in Gulf Arab states to teach in local mosques as Brussels sought favorable oil deals with Saudi Arabia. The Salafist preachers promoted a more radical form of Sunni Islam than the one usually practiced in the Maghreb but whose message resonated with the frustration felt by young people unable to integrate into Belgian society. The preachers “had a major influence on several generations of young people born in Belgium to a Muslim background,”

“One of the lessons of Molenbeek is that Islamic extremism has particular attraction to marginalized individuals already engaged in criminal activities. Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said on March 23 that the Bakraoui brothers “had a heavy criminal record not linked to terrorism.” Abdeslam ran a bar in Molenbeek that was shut on suspicion of being a hub for drug dealing.”

Alexander Athos is a writer and businessman.He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (European History) Personal background Alexander was christened Orthodox brought up Catholic and now Evangelical Christian with an acceptance of the best in Christian tradition and a respect for genuine people of faith from other cultures. Political inclinations: Christian intellectual who has an eclectic predisposition to understanding global and national political and social trends and seeking to influence them for good by thoughtful and persuasive discourse.

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Terrorism

Turkey begins the return of ISIS fighters to Europe

Iveta Cherneva

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Today, Turkey started sending ISIS fighters back to Europe, as it promised last week.

Europe needs to take responsibility for its ISIS fighters. US President Trump is right on that.

As Turkey’s minister of internal affairs said last week, Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists. Europe’s jihadists are its own problem to deal with.

What is interesting however is that Turkey has been releasing ISIS fighters from the region that it held in custody. But not when it comes to European jihadists.

With this move, Turkey’s aim is to actually punish Europe. Erdogan is doing this out of spite because he knows that this is what Europeans fear the most. It is not Erdogan’s priority to try ISIS, as he has shown previously. To piss off the Europeans, yes, that’s a different story.

This recent development comes to remind us that Western Europe has a big problem to deal with. The evidence from conflict zones will not hold in European courts which means that authorities might have to let ISIS fighters that still have their citizenship walk free. That is a European nightmare.

This serves to remind French President Macron that France not Bosnia is the biggest jihadist force in Europe. Macron called Bosnia a jihadist ticking bomb in that unfortunate Economist interview but France is the real problem. No other European country has such a high number of jihadist fighters in the Middle East.

Today a Greek ISIS fighter whose citizenship had been stripped was not allowed in Greece upon return from Turkey. We will see that a lot in the coming weeks. The situation of no citizenship will create a legal question of statelessness which will make the return of ISIS fighters also a human rights question.

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The Rise OF ISIS and its Aftermath in Afghanistan

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“I will see you guys in Newyork”.Abu Du’a, the leader of ISIS, whose nom de guerre (war name) was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, told his American captors as he was released from a brief detention during Iraq war. After American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Al Baghdadi joined the Arms Resistance against the U.S led coalition troops in Iraq but he was captured and detained in a US. – run Iraqi prison in 2006. Following al Baghdadi’s release in the late 2000s, he joined the predecessor to ISIS: the Islamic State of Iraq(ISI). This group initially affiliated themselves with AL- Qaeda, but was later rejected by AL Qaeda due to their brutal acts and it became Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). IN 2010, al Baghdadi became the leader of ISI and changed the name of the organization to Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2013.

On 29 June 2014, ISIS declared the worldwide caliphate under the leadership of “caliph Ibrahim” with publishing a statement of supporting al Baghdadi’s designation as caliph.  This concept of caliphate is mainly based on the universal religion and its ultimate goal is the establishment of Islamic state. This political idea of Islamic state is embodied in the concept of the ummah (community) which says that all the Muslims wherever they reside are bounded by a common faith which transcends all geographical, political or national boundaries.

Many other groups had pledged allegiance to ISIS like the Boko haram in Nigeria, the bait al Maqdis in Egypt, the Islamic movement in Uzbekistan, andthe previous leader of TTP Hafiz Saeed, also pledged allegiance to al Baghdadi in Oct, 2014 renaming themselves as the Islamic state of Khorasan (ISK) in Afghanistan. IS-K’s early membership included a contingent of Pakistani militants who emerged in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province around 2010, just across the border from the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.  Many of these militants were estranged members of TTP and Lashkar-e Islam, who had fled from Pakistan to escape pressure from security forces.

ISK emerged in different provinces of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan but outnumbered in the eastern province of Ningarhar, Achin district, due to some specific reasons. Achin district is one of the backward, underdeveloped and illiterate regions of Afghanistan which makes its population vulnerable to recruitment as new militants. Moreover, peopled welling in this district joined and supported this new group not only for their Islamic ideology but also for the high salaries of $500 paid by this organization.In the beginning of their journey in the region, ISK dealt people in a soft manner and always refrained from offensive language to encourage and inspire the people to join this militant group.

But with the passage of time, ISK changed its behavior and started the forceful imposition of sharia law. People were prevented from the cultivation of opium which was the main source of revenue for the locals of that region, seized drugs and sentenced drug addicted people, however, majority of their own militants were drug addicts and sold drugs seized from the locals to meet their own financial needs. They introduced numerous fabricated laws that were neither in conformity to national, Islamic nor in conformity with the locals laws. The militants of the group were indoctrinated to such an extent that they were willing to sacrifice everything for the interest of the group. One of their militants, involved in a robbery case, accepted his crime in front of the group’s judicial committee. As per the Islamic rules, anyone involved in the robbery would have their hands cut off. Therefore, When the militants were cutting hands, he was chanting ‘’Allah ho Akbar’’-Allah is the greatest.

Taliban and Afghan forces have attacked the Achin district many times  but no one of them succeeded in retaking the district from ISK. This region was completely monopolized by this group and they ruled the people according to their own so called sharia law. People started displacement from the region towards Jalalabad, the provincial capital because they were unable to abide by these brutal laws and tolerate the atrocities. Following is a short story which a person told in anonymity about the excessive brutalities perpetrated by ISK in Achin.

“We all flocked outside after Friday prayer, according to announcement in sermon. They brought seven detainees belong to Emirates a Taliban group, Afghan national Army member and spies. All were covered with black ski masks. Meanwhile, an ISIS militant rode on a trained horse, having sharp sword in hands and reached to the spot. He decapitated all of them and shouted “Allah ho Akbar”. With the sound of Allah ho Akbar, we all scattered like flies in the air and no one knows what happened. But later on it was realized by people who delivered us to hospital that the place was targeted by a US drone. Many people were injured, and the ISIS militant who was beheading the prisoners was burned by drone attack. I still have the scene in my mind which has really affected me mentally and can’t take out those thuds of the sword from my mind when he was beheading those innocent people”.

Furthermore, they knelt innocent elders of the Shenwari nation belong to the same district on the bombs accused of in affiliation to the Taliban.  A gruesome video also uploaded by them to the YouTube. These kind of brutal acts were the routine of everyday in Daesh or ISK controlled areas.

Afghan Commando assisted by US special forces have been fighting with the ISK in Achin for the last few years and have made significant progress contributing to the liberation of some villages but there are speculations that united states itself is assisting this militant group and supplying food and weapons to them through helicopters which has put the Afghans in doubt.  US dropped the ” mother of all bombs” – the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal formally known as GBU-43/B massive ordnance air blast on 13 April 2017 on ISIS Khorasan cave complex in Achin district, Ningarhar.  According to a statement from the United States military in Afghanistan, the bomb hit a tunnel complex but they didn’t say how many militants were killed or whether the bombing caused any civilian casualties. The fact is that it was only an experience of their conventional bomb which is clear from the following statement of the Ex-president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai:

“This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons”. This claim of Ex-president was further forged by the locals of Achin who stated that there was neither weapons depot nor any single ISIS fighter in the targeted region.

Currently Achin district has been cleared by Afghan Forces from this group but there are opportunities of their return to the region. Afghan Forces should show their strong presence, build the region and rehabilitate former militants. We are the veterans of many regions where US and Afghan forces have operated and lost hundreds of their soldiers for clearing the region but have left the region vulnerable to the insurgents return. Moreover, America should equip Afghan forces with sophisticated weapons to counter these threats. Afghan National Directorate can play a vital role in the dissolution of this group by infiltration of their own spies in disguise.

 Moreover, in comparison to ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which have oil resources of about $2 billion and financed by different Arab states, this group is very much dependent on local revenues and neighboring state Pakistan. Pakistan may not be able to support two insurgent groups-Taliban and ISK-simultaneously for a single goal. And the so called jihad vacuum is also filled by Taliban which never want any rival jihadi group in Afghanistan.

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Imprisoned ISIS Wives and Children Have Nowhere to Run To, Nowhere to Hide

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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The guards have said if the war comes close, then they will leave here,” a Western ISIS wife texted me today from Camp Roj in far northeastern Syria, a detention center that houses 500 ISIS wives and 1,200 of their children.  “What to do if we are left alone?” she asks. “There’s nowhere to go and too risky to get caught by Bashar [al-Assad].”

As she writes, I’m in Belgium sitting next to an FBI agent. I ask him what she should do, but amid all of this chaos, he doesn’t have an immediate answer.  

The ISIS wife continues: “I like how America thinks it’s too dangerous for them [the U.S. military] to be here but safe for us to remain with Assad.”

Over the past two years I’ve been in and out of the northeastern territory of Syria held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) six times with staff from the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). We have conducted in-depth interviews with 217 ISIS men and women, 100 of them in SDF held territory, for our project countering the ISIS brand, which the SDF has supported fully. 

The woman texting me today gave us an interview last year and has managed to stay in touch via illicit phones other detainees allow her to use.

At the same time she is texting me, our Kurdish translator texts that they are living under the sound of bombs and troops advancing. Assad’s troops are marching eastward, while Turkey is barreling in from the north. Which soldiers will reach Camp Roj first and what the women should do if the Kurdish YPJ-Women’s Protection Units guarding them decide it’s too dangerous to remain in place, is something the guards have told the inmates to think about. 

The female inmates of Camp Ain Issa, farther west, faced a similar dilemma earlier in the week when the Turks began shelling. Until Sunday, Ain Issa Camp housed a total of 12,000 women and children, but according to one Belgian woman, it descended into “complete chaos” as fires broke out, the guards left, and the women escaped in the hundreds. 

Among the women housed there, 265 were wives of foreigner terrorist fighters, alongside 1,000 of their children. On the second day of the Turkish air assault, Belgian ISIS wives Bouchra Abouallal and Tatiana Wielandt decided it was better to go on the run with their small children than remain in place to learn what next disaster might befall them.

We interviewed Bouchra Abouallal in September 2019.  Completely exhausted from her experience with ISIS, she said that life inside the Caliphate was “the best possible deradicalization program ever.” Already prosecuted in absentia and facing a five-year sentence in her home country of Belgium, she told ICSVE researchers she would prefer to return home even to serve a 20-year sentence rather than remain in the camp under the menace of the cruel ISIS-inmate enforcers who threatened all European women who no longer wanted anything to do with the ISIS Caliphate.

Now Bouchra Abouallal is on the run with her three small children. In audio messages punctuated in the background by shelling she told a Belgian journalist that she was headed toward the front lines in hopes she could make it to safety in Turkey, where she wishes to turn herself into the Belgian consulate and make her way home. 

While European officials here in Brussels have stated that Turkey agrees to help any escaped ISIS cadres that end in their hands to be returned to their homelands, up until recently, Belgium was refusing to let her come back. Instead of seeing her as someone victimized by the Islamic State’s propaganda and lies, and fooled by the “Shariah for Belgium” group that had radicalized many in her native city of Antwerp, Belgian politicians see her as a threat.

But it is not difficult for Belgian authorities to turn past posts on her social media accounts against her.

“Your system has failed oh Belgian state,” Bouchra’s Facebook page read after she slipped out of Belgium to go live under the Islamic State. Referring to the way the Belgian police had hassled her upon her first return home from Syria, her posts taunted them, saying “You were watching us 24/7 and you still haven’t managed to stop us. Why? Because Allah is the best planner (…)” Her threats continued with, “We have left because we believe that it is a duty for every Muslim. To the policeman who threatened to take our children away, I can say that my children will turn yours into orphans, with the will of Allah.”

Bouchra claims that it wasn’t she, but one of her ISIS husbands, who authored these hate-filled posts. She says he used to lock her up at home and post on her Facebook page without her permission. Indeed, when we interviewed Bouchra in September she spoke gently as she denounced ISIS, giving us permission to use both her image and her name in a counter narrative video—this, while knowing the ISIS enforcers in the camp would likely punish her for it.

The woman texting me today from Camp Roj does so fearing that if it becomes known it was her texting she will be punished by her YPJ guards. Yet pure terror drives her to try to stay connected with the outside world as she makes wrenching decisions for herself and her young child. 

Americans are also in this camp. We have interviewed two American passport holders—Canadian dual-citizen Kimberly Pullman and disputed American citizen Hoda Muthana. 

When I ask today’s texter about Americans in the camps, she tells me there are five in all, two more in Camp Roj and another in Camp Hol. She states that there are also two American children in Camp Roj. We’ve met one of them, Adam, the two-year-old son of Hoda Muthana. Both times we interviewed his mother, Adam was struggling with chronic bronchitis. Today the woman texting me from Camp Roj tells me that the air is thick with fumes from the bombings, which is causing many of the children to have breathing difficulties.

“Going to jail right now won’t be great,” this woman writes as she imagines her future in the West—if she can ever manage to get home. Then she envisions another future: “I could get lost among all of this trouble.” Then again she realizes that fleeing the camp, if her guards do abandon their posts, might also prove disastrous. 

“Please let the governments know that we are not happy with the escape of the women [who have left the camps]. We are actually scared and want to just be safe in our own embassies,” she texts. “We don’t want to keep running away. We want to be tried. I’ve already had the chance to run away before and I decided to be tried in my own country.”

Now the pressing question, amid all of this chaos unleashed by Trump greenlighting the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria: Is anyone going to do anything to get these former ISIS wives and their children back home where they can face justice and live in safety or do we just leave them to face whatever fate turns up as hostile armies converge?

Author’s note: first published in the Daily Beast

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