When I wrote my article bemoaning the lack of information and progress regarding the case of Ayoub el-Khazzani on August 20, 2016, I thought I had done an exhaustive search of the available information on him. I think now that was largely true, but unfortunately, I missed something key. It’s been a long time since I published anything, and in light of the February release of Eastwood’s new movie, I’d like to take the opportunity of my return to go over what I missed and bring you up to speed on the handful of developments that have taken place.
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
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
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
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
Following up my previous post, I’ve spent some time in the past week digging around into the criminal Underworld of Brussels in cases where it has exploded onto the pages of the Belgian press. Admittedly, I am at the mercy of what makes its way into freely available sites, so I’m sure there is a whole world of material I’m not seeing. Yet, I think the little bit I’ve done is already paying dividends in terms of my understanding of what is happening.
The point of interest is the surname Benhattal. In my last post, I mentioned that Ibrahim El Bakraoui’s stint in prison came as a result of an attempted theft and shootout with the police. His driver was a Jawad Benhattal, who received 6 years for his role in the crime. Unfortunately, I was not able to find anything further on him, specifically. Continue reading
Hind Fraihi, a journalist who went undercover and wrote En immersion à Molenbeek ten years ago, described the district even then as a hotbed of Islamic extremism. Yet the emergence of the Islamic State and the extension of its influence in Belgium has created something different. Whereas earlier preachers and recruiters had sought to legitimize their violent ideology with carefully constructed justifications, the recruiters who aligned themselves with the Islamic State have eschewed all of this in favor of grafting a few basic religious ideas onto the existing career paths of its potential soldiers—a fusion some are calling “gangster Islam.” This serves the needs of an organization that seeks to attack the very heart of Western Civilization by supplying it with a ready-made network of facilitators already schooled by the Underworld. Continue reading
Friday was a busy day for Belgian law enforcement with multiple operations resulting in the arrest of the last remaining publically-revealed fugitive from the Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini. In addition, a recently revealed suspect, Osama Krayem (sometimes seen as Oussama Kraiem), known until now as Naim al-Hamed, was also captured. In all, six individuals were arrested, the others being Hervé B.M., Bilal El Makhoukhi, and two possibly unrelated individuals named Assia B. and Chaouki A. The last two may have been swept up inadvertently for being close to the operations and acting in a manner suspicious to police. Politico early on named another individual as Abu Amrid, but nothing further was ever reported on that, and I would take it with a grain of salt as this topic is not their bread-and-butter. Continue reading
In my recent posting A Flurry of Activity Around Europe I wrote a short paragraph about some arrests in Germany in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks. Since then, I’ve been able to dig a little more into the targets of these arrests, although information is still hard to come by.
In the city of Gießen, north of Frankfurt in the state of Hessen, a 28-year-old Moroccan was arrested at the train station at 1:45am on the Thursday morning after the attack. Another train was not due to leave the station for another 2.5 hours. Continue reading
Due to other requirements on my time, I was forced to sit back for a few days and watch as things unfolded in the aftermath of the Brussels bombings. Thankfully, this was so, because we’ve seen raid upon raid and arrest after arrest since late last week with little clarity added to the picture since then. All that seems to be apparent is that the situation is far more complex and worrisome than authorities have either believed or made known to the public before now. Continue reading