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 →
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 →
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 →