Belgium's alleged 'executioner of Raqqa' detained in Syrian camp

Belgium's alleged 'executioner of Raqqa' detained in Syrian camp
A Belgian jihadist fighter (not pictured) suspected of financing attacks in Brussels and Paris and held in a Syrian prison says he hopes to live a 'normal life in Belgium.' Credit: © Belga

A Belgian jihadist fighter thought to be the "executioner of Raqqa" and suspected of financing the Brussels and Paris terrorist attacks has been detained in a Syrian camp, intelligence reports confirmed.

Anouar Haddouchi, who also goes by the name Abou Souleymen al Belgiki, left for Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) in 2014 with his 32-year-old wife, identified as Julie Maes, and their two sons.

Although he has denied it, reports have linked him to a Belgian jihadist fighter who goes by the similar name of Abou Souleymen Belgiki, nicknamed the "executioner of Raqqa" for allegedly carrying out over a hundred beheadings in a public square in the former Syrian IS stronghold.

Federal public prosecutors have been investigating the suspected involvement of 35-year-old Haddouchi in the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and the ones that followed in Brussels in 2016.

Authorities believe that, in the summer of 2015, Haddouchi provided some €3,500 to Mohamed Abrini, a central suspect in the Brussels attacks who was seen on CCTV footage leaving behind a bag of explosives at Brussels Airport.

The exchange is thought to have taken place in the British city of Birmingham, where Haddouchi and his partner moved to live in 2009, and where the Belgian jihadist managed to claim social housing benefits, according to De Morgen.

Suspected terrorist funding

After the couple's departure to Syria, the British government reportedly continued paying the benefits into the couple's accounts, which were frozen by Belgium in 2016.

In the spring, Belgian intelligence reports confirmed that the pair had been detained and were being held in a Kurdish-controlled camp in Syria, according to the Dutch-speaking outlet.

In an interview with De Morgen, Anne Speckhard, an American terrorism expert, said she had spoken to Haddouchi, who had denied being the alleged executioner and had "laughed the accusations away."

"He said he had tried to escape from IS, but the emir threatened and imprisoned him on suspicion of espionage. He wants to return to Belgium and accepts his sentence," Speckhard told the outlet.

The fate of the Belgian jihadist remains unclear, with Kurdish forces lacking the institutions to bring foreign nationals to justice, and with his suspected involvement in the Paris attacks making him subject to French prosecution.

Despite repeated calls from international actors for Belgium to repatriate its jihadist fighters abroad, the government has refused to bring suspected terrorist departees back to the country.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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