The Jumet Case: More Identities and Linkages to France
On Tuesday, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure (DH) reported interesting new information about the case of jihadist cell emanating out of Jumet/Charleroi. When I wrote on the topic a month ago, only partial identities had been released, but I was able to work out a couple of them. One of those was confirmed in this report, which leads me to believe I was correct about both of them. Unfortunately, the DH article is a subscription-only item, so I have only the opening blurb to work from. Nevertheless, it gives me enough to advance the story a little.
According to the blurb, the members of the cell in Charleroi, Albin Mbesse (Albin M. from previous reports), Bilal Mejdabi (Bilal M. of previous reports), Ahmed Ouider (Ahmed O. of previous reports) and Youssef Bouamar (Youssef B. of previous reports) were in contact since sometime in 2015 with previously-convicted French jihadist Cüneyt Kolankaya. Kolankaya was interested in committing anti-Jewish attacks in Paris or Drancy in the wake of the Paris attacks. That’s where the public face of the story ends.
With the new identities, I took a look around to see what I could dig up and came up empty on Mejdabi and Ouider. That being said, I’m a little suspicious of the Mejdabi surname. I can’t really find that surname publically in Brussels, which is where Bilal is reported to live. What I do find is the surname Mejdoub or Mejdoubi, and there is a Bilal Mejdoubi in Brussels (Uccle, more precisely, according to 2012 race statistics) with a likely birthdate of 23 June 1991, according to an old netlog profile.
Youssef Bouamar, on the other hand, is a known quantity. In my previous article, I complained about the lax treatment of convicted jihadists in Belgium, in this case Youssef B. It’s become commonplace to discover that the latest terror arrest or the perpetrator of the latest terror act was somebody known to police who was released with a monitoring bracelet and required to regularly report to the authorities, but failed to do so. And with resources being tight, no one was able to follow up and figure out what had become of the individual. Bouamar was a protégé of the notorious jihadist recruiter, Khalid Zerkani aka Papa Noël. According to a December article in the Washington Post, the 21-year-old Bouamar functioned as one of Zerkani’s financiers through theft. Despite his criminal conviction and monitoring bracelet, he was still able to engage in plotting with another cell. It demonstrates that there is a serious problem with this approach to handling these individuals, negligence on the part of the authorities, or both.
The final piece gleaned from DH’s blurb was the communication with the convicted French subject, Cüneyt Kolankaya, demonstrating that it’s not just the Belgians who are having problems keeping an eye on the enemy within. Kolankaya was arrested on February 13, 2015, for criminal association with a terrorist enterprise. He and another associate had tried to join the jihad and wage war in Syria in 2014. Kolankaya’s associate was interdicted by Turkish police at the Syrian frontier and deported back to France, where he was subsequently arrested. Another source states that Kolankaya was also turned around in Turkey before he was arrested.
The young man, who calls himself “Oussama”, stayed in pretrial detention at Fresnes for five months before being released to live with his father. An investigation by Canal+ revealed that he had boasted of fooling his captors into believing that he was no longer radicalized. Upon his release he began recruiting a team in the summer of 2015 through social networks to conduct an attack on the police station of Orléans (Loiret). The operation was to be conducted in December, but the plot was foiled by DGSI (French security service). Two jihadists were arrested in Loiret on 23 December, and four days later “Oussama” was arrested at his father’s home. Two others from Kolankaya’s home region of Côtes-d’Armor were also arrested, one on Christmas Day and one sometime in January. To drive home the frustration, the men detained are under house arrest with the requirement to report to the police or gendarmerie 2-3 times a day.
I will try to obtain a copy of the DH article, in order to bring you more specifics about the tie between Kolankaya and the Charleroi group.
New Arrest in the Brussels Bombings Case
Authorities made an arrest following a house raid in Schaerbeek on Thursday morning related to the March 22nd bombings in Brussels. 31-year-old Ali E.H.A., born on 23 September 1984, was charged with being a perpetrator, co-perpetrator, or accomplice to a terrorist attack. It is unclear what precisely Ali has done or why the authorities are only now arresting him. Some reports suggest that he has something to do with the renting of the safehouse at Avenue des Casernes 39 in Etterbeek, the safehouse associated with the Farisi brothers.
Belgian authorities executed a series of raids on May 25th, arresting four teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 who had variously tried to leave for Syria or develop plots closer to home. Over the course of time, it has become clear that this group is larger than at first believed. Surprisingly, the 16-year-old Mohamed E.A. of Kortrijkstraat in Borgerhout has come to the fore as a leader of the group. He was to secure explosives for attacks at the city’s Central Station and Astrid Square. There are other reports of a plot to assassinate the politician, Filip Dewinter, of the Vlaams Belang party.
Two of the members of the group, 17-year-old Faissal A. of Hoboken and 18-year-old Zakaria El A. of Borgerhout, had already tried to travel to Turkey where they were turned around by the authorities there. Zakaria received a three-year suspended sentence. I’ve identified Zakaria as Zakaria El Abbadi, based on records and images of the young man as a distance runner online. I’m not one normally given to compassion when it comes to jihadist radicals no matter how young they are. I never had anything but contempt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, no matter how many times I was told he was just a dumb, young kid that got manipulated by his older brother. He always looked like a sullen punk to me. El Abbadi, on the other hand, awakened some sympathy in me. He might be just as much of a cruel punk as Tsarnaev, but the image of him striving his hardest during the race made me consider how insidious the enemy is. There truly is a special place reserved in hell for people who ruin young boys and girls with their perverse world outlook.
Two others involved in this group have also been caught trying to go to Syria in March: 19-year-old Adil E.M. (or Z.) and Seraj E.M. (16/17) of Borgerhout. Adil was quickly released because he had no previous criminal record. Seraj, on the other hand, was known to the authorities and thus, rendered to a closed institution. Seraj is one of the youngest of the “Dalton” brothers of Kwekerijstraat in Borgerhout, a notorious criminal family.
The last of the group that has been named is Naim (or Najib) R., alias Abou Julaybib, of Mechelen. He grew up in Wallonia but has been living for several years with his parents in Mechelen. He comes across as quiet and somewhat slow-witted. He supposedly has psychological problems and spends all his time in front of a computer. He does not attend a mosque but is said to be thoroughly radicalized, even refusing to attend a de-radicalization course. His lawyer says that he has been influenced by Faissal A., who was trying to recruit him to go to Syria, but other information from an undercover journalist indicates that his networks may be more extensive, not only in Antwerp but reaching into France as well.
Most disturbing is that it has to come to light that at least one of the boys was communicating with the murderous Hicham Chaib, the 34-year-old Moroccan-Belgian head of the Islamic State’s Hisbah (Sharia police) in Raqqa. Chaib, himself, comes from Borgerhout and served as a sort of bodyguard to Fouad Belkacem in his Sharia4Belgium days. In the hands of a man like Chaib, these boys would most certainly be turned into cold-blooded killers.