Monday, September 29, 2014

How Belgium Became a Jihadist-Recruiting Hub

Sharia4Belgium, Born in Antwerp, Faces Trial of 46 Members Who Allegedly Went to War

By Matthew Dalton and Margaret Coker
Sept. 28, 2014 10:38 p.m. ET

ANTWERP, Belgium—Nabil Kasmi left for Syria's battlefields in May 2012, the first jihadist an extremist Islamic group named Sharia4Belgium dispatched from this city, Belgian authorities allege.

On Monday, the 23-year-old Mr. Kasmi and 45 other Sharia4Belgium members will go on trial, in Europe's most high-profile legal effort yet to address a dangerous new reality of the bloody war in Syria and Iraq: Europe is increasingly becoming a recruiting ground for jihadists heading there to join terrorist groups like Islamic State.

In the months after Mr. Kasmi left, dozens of Sharia4Belgium members allegedly joined him to fight to create a puritanical Islamic nation, Belgian authorities say, helping turn Belgium into a hub for jihadists going to Syria. Prosecutors will try those members, including 38 who are still believed to be in Syria, before Antwerp's criminal court on charges ranging from terrorism to kidnapping and murder.

The trial is part of a get-tough strategy Belgian officials say is stemming the flow of people leaving for groups like Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It is clear that potential jihadists "don't want to go to jail, which helps us a lot," a senior Antwerp police official says.

(More here.)

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