Missed Opportunities—Real and Imagined

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I was excited this morning to see a new article from CNN about Oussama Atar.  For those of you who have followed my blog, you know I have written about him a number of times (5 to be precise).  I initially stumbled upon him while trying to unearth more about the background of the El Bakraoui brothers, discovering his relationship to them, the Benhattals, and Yasin Atar.  My findings were confirmed by the Belgian press the following month.  I came back to his story briefly with the arrest of Moustapha and Jawad Benhattal last June.  August brought forth the stunning development of a series of unsuccessful raids in Laeken, Anderlecht, and Evere aimed at capturing Atar.  Meanwhile Belgian MP Alain Destexhe demanded an investigation into the role of Amnesty International and the deputies Zoe Genot (Ecolo), Jamal Ikazban (PS) and Ahmed El Khannouss (CDH) in the release of Atar from an Iraqi prison in 2012.  The last time I mentioned the Atars was in connection to a neighbor of their aunt Khadouj, Jamal Alkhomaili, who was an old gang-mate of Moustapha Benhattal and an associate of the recently arrested Farid Kharkhach, a supplier of false documents from the Saint-Gilles “factory” to the El Bakraouis. Continue reading

Laeken Arrests and the False Documents Business

A customs officer shows fake European Un
STEPHAN AGOSTINI/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian antiterrorism police carried out an operation in the late afternoon of last Tuesday in the Rue Albert in the Brussels suburb of Laeken.  A couple was arrested and charged with providing logistical support to the perpetrators of the November Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks.  The two were identified as Farid K. and Meryem E.B. in the press.  Two days later Farid’s surname was divulged as Kharkhach.  Kharkhach has been kept in detention since his arrest, but his wife has been released under strict conditions.  While she is charged with forgery and the use of forgery in writing, she does not share her husband’s additional charge of participation in the activities of a terrorist group. Continue reading

Tangents Within Tangents

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Trial of Melissa F., Mohamed-Amine B., and Abdelkader Benameur (La Derniere Heure)

So many times I find myself beginning one story only to end up at a radically different destination than the one I’d intended.  The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon started the other day when I decided to revisit the Bazarouj family and more specifically, brother Youssef.  Ayoub and his siblings provided the material for one of my earliest articles, and I always like to check up on those I’ve written about previously to see if anything new has emerged.  It turns out that Ayoub is now seeking damages for the damages caused by the multiple raids on his property after the Paris attacks. Continue reading

New Arrests in Belgium–And I Think They Are Significant

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© JC Guillaume

Friday and Saturday have brought new arrests and charges in Belgium, one definitely connected to the March 22nd attacks.  Youssef E.A. (b. August 4, 1985) was arrested on Friday and had the book thrown at him: participation in the activities of a terrorist group, murder in a terrorist context and assassination attempts in a terrorist context, as author, co-author or accomplice.  Nothing further was given regarding his identity or the particulars of the activities of which he is accused. Continue reading

Updates From Around Belgium

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. Continue reading

A Good Nose For Details

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Here are a couple of tidbits that show we are on the right track here at Hindsight is 20/20.

Oussama Atar Is the Cousin of the El Bakraoui Brothers

My speculations back in April turned out to be correct.  La Capitale ran a story under the headline, “Oussama Atar, mentor of the El Bakraoui brothers, was in prison in Iraq with the current leader of Daesh.”  In it they detail that police searched the residence of Oussama Atar the day after the Brussels bombings, which was located at rue du Busselenberg 64 in Anderlecht.  No arrests were made, and apparently Atar was not present at the time. Continue reading

A Trip to the Bookstore

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Recently I’ve been casting about for what to write on next, but I keep coming back to Belgium.  There’s just so much there and so many avenues to research, no pun intended.  That brings me to the February 2016 trial in Brussels of over 30 terrorism subjects, a trial that seems to be turning into an annual event.  Early on one of the suspects, Khalid Zerkani, was split out for his own separate trial, and like most Belgian terror trials, few of the accused were actually present.  One of those accused was actually on-the-loose in Brussels itself and would vaporize himself inside Zaventem airport a month later—Najim Laachraoui. Continue reading

Young Recruits from Brussels and Charleroi

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Albin and Nawel (Source: La Nouvelle Gazette 2/3/2016)

On Saturday morning, January 30, Belgian police entered through the garden door of a residence on rue du Four à Verre in the Hamendes quarter of Jumet (Charleroi) and placed a couple under arrest for participation in a terrorist organization.  This couple, identified so far as 23-year-old Albin M. and 27-year-old Nawel Z., had radicalized over the past year along with another individual from Brussels identified as Bilal M.  A local paper at the time referred to the wife/mother as being named Yamine, but I have not seen this anywhere since then.  I have discovered a 27-year-old Nawel Zadi (born May 21, 1988) from Jumet through my researches.  In one search in particular, I found the name Nawel Zadi in conjunction with the name Albin Mbesse, the context being a family relation.  Other information I discovered on the name Albin Mbesse gave a birthdate which results in an age of 23.  So I feel pretty confident in these two identifications. Continue reading

From the UK, to Italy, then Singapore, and Back to Brussels

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Mohammed Ali Ahmed, Zakaria Boufassil, and Soumaya Boufassil in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court CREDIT: JULIA QUENZLER

I’ve taken a few days off from writing due to the requirements of everyday life, but I haven’t stopped paying attention.  Law enforcement throughout the world have continued to uncover cells and plots, revealing that al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other global-jihadist-minded actors have not swerved from their program to implement the Sharia throughout the world.

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There’s No Risk to the Public in Birmingham

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Police conduct a house search on the Whitmore Road (The Sun)

British police counter-terrorism units have launched a number of pre-planned, intelligence-led operations in recent days in Birmingham and at Gatwick airport against individuals for Syria-related terrorism offenses or in connection with the events in Paris and Brussels.  Every time the public is told that there was no risk to them and that there was no information to suggest that an attack was being planned against the UK. Continue reading