The raids came hours before the start of a European Union summit of 27 government leaders in the Belgian capital. Spokesman Lieve Pellens of the federal prosecutor’s office said the six charged early today constituted the hard core of a terrorist group and included one militant who allegedly was plotting a suicide attack.
It was feared they were planning a suicide bombing as the Prime Minister and 26 other European premiers met in Brussels for a two-day summit. All suspects under arrest are Belgian, and include Moroccan-born Malika El Aroud, who writes online in French under the name of Oum Obeyda.
El Aroud was the only woman among those arrested. Most of the others are in their 20s or early 30s and only one of those was known from other terror investigations, Pellens said. El Aroud was caught in a pre-Christmas terror sweep last year but was released because of insufficient evidence.
Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated several additional background articles from Dutch-language sources about one of the arrested suspects, Malika El Aroud. First, from De Standaard (subscription required):
Malika is not tired of struggling yet- - - - - - - - -
BRUSSELS — Malika El Aroud, Europe’s most notorious Muslim extremist, lives in our country. And since she yesterday she is in jail for the umpteenth time because of her involvement in the preparation of attacks.
There cannot be an investigation into Islamic terrorism in Belgium without the name of Malika El Aroud (49) popping up. She is by far the most radical Muslima in this country.
This time the anti-terror investigators suspect her and her Tunisian husband, Moes Garsalloui (39), of wanting to create a “jihadist cell” in Belgium to commit attacks. Garsalloui trained Belgian volunteers in Afghanistan and with that also maintained contacts with the top of Al Qaeda. Malika took care of the logistics. Garsalloui is known as a radical by security services all over the world. But his wife is not quite inferior to him in this respect.
Malika El Aroud is a daughter of a Moroccan immigrant family. She arrived in Belgium when she was five years old, was not too bad at studies but has lived on government benefits since she was 17. She became pregnant, attempted to commit suicide and married twice with the wrong man. “Until one day I heard a voice in my head,” said Malika on October 13, 2003 in De Standaard. “The voice said: “Only the Quran can save you.”
In 1999, in the Centre Islamique Belge (CIB) [Islamic Centre Belgium] — the mosque of the extremist Sheikh Ayachi Bassam in Molenbeek [near Brussels] — she became acquainted with Abdessatar Dahmane, also a dropout in search of meaning. Together they traveled to the Afghanistan of the Taliban in 2001. For them this was the Islamic paradise where they wanted to live. El Aroud saw herself as a sort of Mother Teresa, who wanted to build orphanages.
Dahmane realized another dream there. Together with an accomplice he committed a suicide attack on the Afghan opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, on September 9, 2001. Malika is proud of her husband. “I do not want people to paint Abdessatar as extremist. He has accomplished his mission. If he had asked me to come along with him, I would have done that,” she told De Standard.
Two days after the assassination of Massoud, Al Qaeda committed the attacks on New York City. Malika and the Taliban were ousted from the paradise Afghanistan in the weeks afterwards. She returned to our country, where she had to stand trial in 2003 with ten other extremists, suspected of having planned the assassination of Massoud in our country. But Malika was acquitted. “Your ideas are very extreme, but I can not sentence you for that,” judge Claire Degryse said in her verdict.
Her friends were, however, sentenced, but that did not make Malika milder or more careful. On the contrary, soon after the death of her husband the widow El Aroud remarried the ten years younger Tunisian Moez Garsalloui, also an extremist. Malika emigrated with him to Fribourg in Switzerland. There the couple started a hate site, which called for jihad and among other things displayed films of beheadings and suicide attacks in Iraq.
Garsalloui and El Aroud went to jail. After their release they came back to Belgium, where her family lives and where she has for a long time receives government benefits. “Do I have to be embarrassed by that? I have worked for years in a nursing home for old pensioners in this country. I am entitled to a benefit,” she said to De Standaard.
Malika Aroud these days pursues her war against the unbelievers mostly on the Internet. On radical Islamic Web sites her alias is Oum Obeyda, and has become an icon admired by many Muslims and Muslimas. Her star glowed even brighter last year when she was arrested during Christmas. There was mention of a plot to spring the terrorist Nizar Trabelsi from jail and commit attacks on the Brussels subway. Malika was then released for lack of evidence.
Malika’s family, who still live in the Brussels area, never understood Malika’s choosing of extremism. Her family was hoping that during recent months she would have come to her senses. Monday the whole family celebrated Eid al-Adha [Festival of Sacrifice] in Brussels in the company of Malika. But without her husband Moez, who is still in Afghanistan.
From the Vlaams Belang website:
The “mama of Al-Qaeda”
The members of an Islamic terrorist cell who were arrested yesterday are no pansies. The arrested suicide killer Hicham Beyayo is part of a notorious gangster family from Anderlecht [municipality in the region of Brussels], Het Laatste Nieuws reports. “His brothers Mohammed and Redouan are in jail for serious banditry. Another relative, Hakim, was sentenced in 2006 for a tiger kidnapping where a Brussels stockbroker was taken hostage.” *
Hicham Beyayo was recruited by the network and in Pakistan and Afghanistan prepared for a suicide attack. To become a Martyr in the Holy War against the West is the only way — as they are being told — to redeem their sins and even get a ticket to the Islamic paradise. That is why Muslim fundamentalists look at prisons as an ideal fishing pond for the recruitment of jihad fighters…
The lynchpin in the story however, is Malika el-Aroud. She also maintained in her younger years a quite unfettered life of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” And the wrong men. Until she converted to Islam and soon ended up in the fundamentalist stream. But the wrong men, they stayed. First she married the extremist Abdessatar Dhamane. This one disguised himself as a “journalist” in Afghanistan and blew himself up in the tent of opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, on behalf of Osama Bin Laden. Malika was proud to be the widow of a fallen terrorist and exchanged her husband for Moez Garsalloui. He ran training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, while Malika made Jihad on the Internet. For that they were expelled to Switzerland, after which they again ended up in our country.
Het Laatste Nieuws learned from American sources that Malika El-Aroud, after the attack on Massoud, was liberated by the Belgian state security from a women’s camp under the forces of Massoud, and that they assumed that Malika would like to work for them. But that was a wrong guess. “That plan was in tatters. Once back in Belgium Malika El-Aroud started an even more extreme campaign for Al Qaeda. In your country she received over a thousand dollars per month government benefits for that,” as an American source says bitterly.
It is almost impossible to grasp. American and French terror specialists repeatedly warned our country’s Security Service of how dangerous this woman was. Malika el-Aroud was repeatedly arrested and then released again. And even then she got an unemployment benefit here. Are you still surprised that people abroad wonder how this is all is possible?
* Note concerning the “tiger-kidnapping”, from politics.be, July 2, 2006:
Six years for “tiger kidnapping”
The correctional court in Brussels sentenced Rachid Benallal (35), Hakim Beyayo (28) and Mohamed El Boudakhani (24) to an effective imprisonment of six years for a “tiger kidnapping”. The 31-year-old Hassan Ben Mokkadem was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The offenses occurred on February 15, 2005 when an employee of an international stockbroker, with headquarters in Sint-Gillis, was attacked at the landsroemlaan in Koekelberg. The victim was forced to get into a van which had been stolen ten days earlier, and was threatened with death. For an as yet unknown reason, the gangsters eventually decided to release their hostage.
Thanks to an anonymous tip, the police were able to arrest the gang.
One of the suspects, Mohamed El Boudakhani, was on the run at the time of his arrest. He earlier had escaped from the Saint-Hubert prison, where he was jailed for violent theft. From gsm-traffic between El Boudakhani and Beyayo the researchers were able to conclude that both where at the scene of the hostage taking around the time that the abduction took place.
In the van, which was found later in the garage of Benallal in the town Evere, police found in addition to a few of the hostage’s belongings, a bag with weapons, ordnance survey maps, foreign number plates, tools, punchers, and two walkie-talkies.
The court stressed the “continuing psychological problems” that victims of such kidnapping endure. Benallal, Beyayo and El Boudakhani each are fined the legal costs amounting to 12,000 euros. In addition, they must each pay the victim 4200 euros.
Source: HLN today
Hat tip: Tuan Jim.