Europe Tells Obama AGAIN to Mind your Own Business

The vote is very….very close so far.

CNNMoney: U.K. citizens worldwide will vote in the historic referendum on June 23. Prime Minister David Cameron will campaign for the U.K. to stay in the EU. The British economy is the second largest in the EU. Its decision on whether to stay or go will have big implications not only for the people of the U.K. but also global financial markets and the future of Europe. More here.

‘Monstrous interference’: UK pols furious at Obama’s plan to intervene in EU debate

FNC: President Obama looks set to wade into the contentious debate in the United Kingdom over whether or not the nation should remain a member of the European Union – and some Brits are angry at the president’s intrusion into a delicate UK issue ahead of a major vote.

Obama will arrive in London late Thursday for a three-day trip. On Friday he will meet Prime Minister David Cameron — who is reportedly keen to get Obama’s backing ahead of the June 23 referendum, in which Britons will choose to remain or leave the European Union.

Cameron is in a difficult position, backing the “Remain” campaign, while many within his own Conservative Party are campaigning for the “Leave” or “Brexit” (British-Exit) campaign. Polls have shows the race is tight, with the Remain campaign holding an edge as small as one percent.

The White House has said Obama is willing to offer his opinion and may announce that he favors Cameron’s position – that Britain should remain in the European Union.

“If he’s asked his view as a friend, he will offer it,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said. “As the president has said, we support a strong United Kingdom in the European Union.”

Those calling for Britain to leave the European Union are not happy at that news, with U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage saying Obama should stay home.

‘A monstrous interference,” Farage told Fox News Thursday. “I’d rather he stayed in Washington, frankly, if that’s what he’s going to do.”

“You wouldn’t expect the British Prime Minister to intervene in your presidential election, you wouldn’t expect the Prime Minister to endorse one candidate or another. Perhaps he’s another one of those people who doesn’t understand what [the EU] is,” Farage said.

In March, a letter sent from Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Liam Fox, and co-signed by over 100 MPs from four different political parties, asked the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. to persuade Obama not to intervene, calling any such intervention “extremely controversial and potentially damaging.”

“It has long been the established practice not to interfere in the domestic political affairs of our allies and we hope that this will continue to be the case,” the letter to Ambassador Matthew Barzun read.

“While the current U.S. administration may have a view on the desirability or otherwise of Britain’s continued membership of the E.U., any explicit intervention in the debate is likely to be extremely controversial and potentially damaging,” the letter said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson — who was born in New York and has expressed strong support for the UK-U.S. relationship — accused Obama of hypocrisy.

“I just think it’s paradoxical that the United States, which wouldn’t dream of allowing the slightest infringement of its own sovereignty, should be lecturing other countries about the need to enmesh themselves ever deeper in a federal superstate,” Johnson said Tuesday.

Cameron however, has said that the advice of allies was welcome, saying “listening to what our friends say in the world is not a bad idea.”

“I struggle to find the leader of any friendly country that thinks we should leave,” he said Wednesday.

***** For the explanation of the referendum and graphics by The Economist, go here.

Keeping America, America? Britain First Action

Does we have the same attitudes? Is this a call to action in America?

Example…is this happening here in America?

Say NO to Labour’s Muslim mayor!

At a funeral in South London, Sadiq Khan, the local Labour MP and now Labour candidate to be mayor of London, shook hands with convicted terrorist Babar Ahmad, a man who has been blamed for inspiring a generation of extremists, including the gang behind the London bombings of July 7, 2005.

The pair exchanged brief pleasantries before Khan moved on. This happened only a few months ago, around the time of Khan’s nomination as Labour’s mayoral candidate.

Sadiq Khan

Khan shared a platform with Yasser al-Siri, a convicted terrorist and associate of hate preacher Abu Qatada, and Sajeel Shahid, a militant who helped to train the ringleader of the London bombings.

Recently, it emerged that his parliamentary assistant posted a series of highly offensive Islamist, homophobic and misogynistic messages online. Shueb Salar also posed for photos with guns.

Khan was also exposed when it was revealed he ‘followed’ two Isis supporters on Twitter. One posted links to propaganda videos; the other is the brother of a man convicted of supporting insurgents in Afghanistan.

Khan’s former brother-in-law, Makbool Javaid, had links with the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, an organisation that praised the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings. Javaid appeared at London events alongside some of the country’s most notorious hate preachers, including the now banned cleric Omar Bakri.

Both before and after Khan became an MP, he shared speaking platforms with Stop Political Terror, a group supported by a man dubbed the ‘Bin Laden of the internet’. Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam linked to Al Qaeda, preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers and became the first American to be targeted and killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Stop Political Terror later merged with Cage, a London campaign group that described the notorious ISIS executioner Jihadi John as “a beautiful young man”.

(General) Susan Rice, Declares War Policy on ISIS

Cant make this up……

Consider again this interview with the three previous Secretaries of Defense under Barack Obama…..

Rice Details U.S. Whole-of-Government Approach to Defeating ISIL

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Susan E. Rice told the cadets and faculty that defeating ISIL is “at the very top of President Obama’s agenda.”

While the terror group is not an existential threat to the United States, she said, it is a danger to Americans and U.S. allies around the globe. Rice pointed to the ISIL attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, San Bernardino, Jakarta, Nigeria and others. She also highlighted ISIL in Syria and Iraq and the danger it poses to millions of people under its rule.

Dangerous Hybrid

What makes the group dangerous is that “it is essentially a hybrid,” the national security advisor said. ISIL is a terror organization that exploited the chaos of civil war in Syria to attack and occupy large swaths of Syria and Iraq. “At the same time, they have harnessed the power of social media to recruit fighters and inspire lone-wolf attacks,” Rice said.

ISIL is an enormous danger to civilians in the region and is an incredibly destabilizing force in the Middle East, she said, but members of the group are not 10 feet tall.

“This is not World War III or the much-hyped clash of civilizations,” Rice said. “On the contrary, we alienate our Muslim friends and allies — and dishonor the countless Muslim victims of ISIL’s brutality — when people recklessly and wrongly cast ISIL as somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.”

ISIL is simply “a twisted network of murderers and maniacs, and they must be rooted out, hunted down and destroyed,” she said, and all aspects of the U.S. government are part of the process to stop them.

Comprehensive Strategy

“For the past year and a half, the president has been leading a comprehensive strategy to destroy ISIL and its ideology of hate,” Rice said. “And, I do mean comprehensive. When we’re sitting around the situation room table, we’re using all aspects of our power — military, diplomacy, intelligence, counterterrorism, economic, development, homeland security, law enforcement. Ours is truly a whole-of-government campaign.”

 During remarks at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Ambassador Susan E. Rice, national security advisor, explains the comprehensive effort the United States is using to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, April 14, 2016.

And it is a global effort, the national security advisor emphasized. “We’ve assembled a broad coalition of 66 partners — from Nigeria and the Arab League to Australia and Singapore,” Rice said.

The anti-ISIL campaign represents an evolution in America’s broader strategy of confronting and defeating terrorism, she said, noting that since 9/11, the United States has learned that not every conflict requires large numbers of ground troops. “Our fight against ISIL is not like Afghanistan or the Iraq War,” she said.

In Syria and Iraq, coalition forces are helping to train indigenous forces, she said. “And, this increasingly dynamic campaign is ideally suited for airpower and the Air Force, utilized smartly in support of our partners on the ground,” Rice added.

The counter-ISIL strategy has four facets, she said. First, it calls for attacking ISIL’s core in Syria and Iraq. Second, the coalition is targeting ISIL’s branches. Third, the coalition is working to disrupt ISIL’s global network. Fourth, the United States is working around the clock to protect the homeland.

Substantial Progress

“It is a complex effort,” the national security advisor said. “It will not be accomplished fully in just a few weeks or months, or even a few years. But day by day, mile by mile, strike by strike, we are making substantial progress. And … we’re going to keep up the momentum.”

Rice detailed the coalition’s plans to continue the pressure on ISIL, beginning with continuing to hammer at the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria — the so-called core ISIL. Coalition forces have conducted more than 11,500 strikes against core ISIL since starting operations in 2014, she said.

“Due, in large part, to our unprecedented visibility of the battlefield, the coalition air campaign is having a real impact,” Rice said. “Every few days, we’re taking out another key ISIL leader, hampering ISIL’s ability to plan attacks or launch new offensives.”

The strikes also are squeezing ISIL’s finances, which flow from their control of vast oil resources, their extortion and taxation of local populations and their looting and illicit sale of our cultural heritage, she said.

On the Ground

On the ground, the coalition will continue to support local forces in Iraq as they roll back ISIL, the national security advisor said. “So far, they have retaken more than 40 percent of the populated territory that ISIL once held,” she said.


“This fight will continue to require the courage and perseverance of the Iraqi people,” Rice continued. “It will also require the sustained financial support of the international community. It is not enough to win this fight; we must also win the eventual peace.”

Ending the civil war in Syria will go a long way to destroying ISIL, she said. An interagency team of diplomats, military and intelligence officers, working alongside Russia and other international partners facilitated a cessation of hostilities in the country, Rice noted. “This cessation has largely held, but in recent days, we’ve seen a significant uptick in fighting,” she said. “We’re increasingly concerned that the regime’s persistent violations of the cessation — and al-Nusrah’s hostile actions — will undermine efforts to quiet the conflict.”

Assad Must Go

Syrian President Bashar Assad may continue trying to disrupt and delay the good-faith efforts of the international community and the Syrian people to broker a political transition, the national security advisor said. “But he cannot escape the reality that the only solution to this conflict — the only way this ends — is through a political process that brings all Syrians together under a transitional government, a new constitution and credible elections that result in a new government without Assad,” Rice said.

An Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

An Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook 340th EARS Refuel Strike Eagles

An Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

But core ISIL is only part of the problem, she noted. ISIL will flourish in fragile states and lawless regions, Rice said, citing ISIL ally Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIL’s branches in Libya, on the Arabian Peninsula, in West Africa, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIL has sent envoys “to provide their affiliates with money, fighters — even media training,” Rice said.

In Libya, ISIL threatens not only North African stability, but also sub-Saharan Africa and Europe as well, the national security advisor said.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL has established a branch calling itself ISIL in the Khorasan — largely composed of former Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members. “They’ve gained territory in the east and launched attacks in major cities like Jalalabad, though a combination of U.S., Afghan, and Taliban pressure has limited ISIL’s gains,” she said. “As part of the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, President Obama has authorized the Department of Defense to target ISIL in the Khorasan.”

ISIL Affiliates in Yemen

In Yemen, ISIL affiliates have taken advantage of ongoing instability to attack mosques and nursing homes. In Saudi Arabia, ISIL has targeted security forces and civilians. “To address these offshoots, we are deepening our security cooperation with countries in the region,” Rice said. “When President Obama attends the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia] next week, ISIL will be at the top of our agenda.”

Peshmerga soldiers rehearse urban tactical movement at a training base near Irbil, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2016. Peshmerga soldiers attend a six-week infantry basic course that will help improve their tactical knowledge to aid in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. There are six Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve training locations: four building partner capacity sites and two building specialized training sites. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst

Peshmerga soldiers rehearse urban tactical movement at a training base near Irbil, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2016. Peshmerga soldiers attend a six-week infantry basic course that will help improve their tactical knowledge to aid in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. There are six Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve training locations: four building partner capacity sites and two building specialized training sites. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst Peshmerga soldiers practice tactical movements and clearing a buildings

Peshmerga soldiers rehearse urban tactical movement at a training base near Irbil, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2016. Peshmerga soldiers attend a six-week infantry basic course that will help improve their tactical knowledge to aid in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. There are six Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve training locations: four building partner capacity sites and two building specialized training sites. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst

The United States is working with countries such as Mali, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, which are countries targeted by the terror group, Rice said. “With smart, sustained investments,” she added, “we have a chance to prevent ISIL from taking root in these disparate corners by assisting our partners in ways as varied as improving local law enforcement, promoting development and countering ISIL’s nefarious narrative.”

ISIL’s narrative is at the heart of dismantling ISIL’s global network, Rice said. The attacks in Paris highlighted the threat of ISIL fighters returning home, she noted. The United States sent “foreign-fighter surge teams” to work with allies as they implement long-term structural reforms to improve intelligence sharing and prevent future attacks, she said.

Homeland Defense

U.S. officials in the homeland are also working to strengthen aviation security and screening, and working with Interpol to share thousands of profiles of suspected fighters, Rice said. “Roughly 45 countries have established mechanisms to identify and flag terrorist travel to Iraq and Syria, and dozens of countries have arrested fighters or aspiring fighters,” she added. “Together with our partners, we’re slowing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into and out of Iraq and Syria — including sealing almost all the border with Turkey.”

It remains a problem. Since 2011, nearly 40,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria from more than 120 countries. “We will continue to do everything in our power to prevent them from returning and launching attacks in our countries,” Rice said.

The United Nations has passed a resolution targeting ISIL’s abuse of the international financial system. The raid last year against Abu Sayyaf, ISIL’s finance chief, yielded a wealth of information on ISIL’s financial vulnerabilities: 7 terabytes of flash drives, CDs, papers and other data, she said. “That’s more than we got out of the bin Laden raid. And, we’re going to continue using that information and other tools to turn off the ISIL funding tap,” Rice said.

Hearts and Minds

The battle against ISIL is a battle for hearts and minds, Rice said. She quoted the president saying, “Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they’re defeated by better ideas.”

The United States is working to expose ISIL’s twisted interpretation of Islam and underscore that ISIL not only is not defending Muslims, but also is killing many innocent Muslims, Rice said. But the United States cannot deliver this message, she said. It has to come from Muslims.

U.S. officials are supporting partners across the globe, including in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, to get this message across, the national security advisor said. She praised the State Department’s new Global Engagement Center for amplifying anti-ISIL voices internationally, from religious leaders to ISIL defectors.

“Week by week, these voices are eroding ISIL’s appeal,” Rice said. “A new poll shows that nearly 80 percent of young Muslims — from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Tunisia — are now strongly opposed to ISIL.”

Addressing Conditions

But the president doesn’t want to defeat ISIL only to have another group pop up and take its place, Rice said. “To defeat ISIL’s ideology for good, however, we must acknowledge the conditions that help draw people to ISIL’s destructive message in the first place,” she said. “Around the world, countries and communities — including the United States — must continue working to offer a better, more compelling vision. We must demonstrate, as President Obama has said, that the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy. Where ISIL offers horror, countries around the world must offer hope.”

President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Colin Kahl and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice outside the West Wing of the White House, July 15, 2015. White House photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Colin Kahl and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice outside the West Wing of the White House, July 15, 2015. White House photo by Pete Souza White House Conversation

President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Colin Kahl and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice outside the West Wing of the White House, July 15, 2015. White House photo by Pete Souza

Finally, Rice said, it comes down to protecting the homeland. “We’ve hardened our defenses — strengthening borders, airports, ports and other critical infrastructure,” she said. “We’re better prepared against potential bioterrorism and cyberattacks.”

U.S. borders will remain strong, and counterterrorism experts will remain hyper-vigilant, the national security advisor said. “The enduring source of America’s strength, however, comes from upholding our core values — the same enduring values embodied in each one of you at this academy,” Rice said. “It is when people feel persecuted or disempowered that extremism can take hold, so our commitment to the dignity and equality of every human being must remain ironclad.

“In the face of ISIL’s barbarism,” she continued, “America must remain resilient and defiant in our freedom, our openness, and our incredible diversity.”

50,000-troop coalition needed in order to crush ISIS

General Odierno was a guest at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. There was a fascinating question and answer session between the General and Fox News Catherine Herridge.

Operation Hemorrhage: The Terror Plans to Wreck the West’s Economy

Some of the points made by General Odierno included:  Odierno says at FDDWF that Obama decision to pull US troops from Iraq became “self-inflicted wound.”

  •  [U.S.] lost its intelligence network when we withdrew from Iraq
  • What I worry most about ISIS is that they are growing fast and their perception of success
  • We can defeat  the ISIS military, but we need a solution for what happens next after success
  • I am not sure we have capabilities to respond to crisis on five continents
  • We’ve loss capability [in latest defense cuts]
  • Today it is harder and harder to have a unified Iraq because of Iranian influence
  • Kurds have fought heroically and we need to train them and provide economic support
  • Airstrikes have some impact but will not solve all problems as we must enable force on the ground and having people on the ground would enable our air capabilities to be more successful
  • When our military left [Iraq] we lost political influence in the country and region
  • The whole time [U.S.] were there the Syrian government was complicit with al Qaeda
  • I worry [U.S.] have isolationist tendencies and the next president needs to strengthen our [diplomatic] relationships the rest of the world wants the U.S. involved

Top general: 50,000-troop coalition needed in order to crush ISIS

FNC: It will take a coalition of 50,000 troops on the ground to defeat the Islamic State, according to the former army chief of staff who spent more than four years serving in Iraq and who is credited, along with retired General David Petraeus, with being the architect of the successful 2007 troop surge there.

In this Jan. 1, 2010 file photo, Gen. Ray Odierno is shown at a news conference at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

“Probably around 50,000,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno during a panel discussion moderated by Fox News for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Odierno, who received the George P. Shultz award for distinguished service, emphasized the 50,000 would not all be U.S. troops, but the coalition would need to be U.S.- led.

While the general, who commanded all U.S. forces from 2008 to 2010, said he supports a unified country, he added the U.S. government needs to consider whether Iraq has already been divided into three sectors by the sectarian violence — Shia, Sunni and Kurd. Odierno fingered the newly emboldened Iran as a primary agitator.

“Today, I think it’s becoming harder and harder to have a unified Iraq,” he said. “And the reason is I believe the influence of Iran inside of Iraq is so great, they will never allow the Sunnis to participate in a meaningful way in the government. If that doesn’t happen, you cannot have a unified Iraq.”

Odierno, who argued for leaving 20,000 troops in Iraq but met resistance from several senior Obama administration officials as well as then Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, said the decision to pull out became a self-inflicted wound.

The withdrawal made it harder, if not impossible, for the U.S. government to independently assess what was happening on the ground, at a time when the alienation of the Sunni population fueled the rise of ISIS.

“We lost what we call our human intelligence network on the ground,” he said. “I mean we used to have a pretty significant human intelligence operation. So as we pulled out, our U.S. military, we lose it. So we have to depend on Iraqis, which they collect intelligence, but they do it a little bit differently than we do and they look for different things.”

Speaking at the CIA Wednesday, President Obama touted the air campaign against ISIS, though Odierno said air power can only go so far, and working with the local Iraqis was the cornerstone of the surge.

When he was in Iraq, Odierno had first-hand knowledge of the ISIS leader Omar al-Baghdadi, who, at the time was a nondescript bomb maker with control over small Baghdad neighborhoods.

“We had captured him a couple of times, released him. He then fled to, I think, Syria. And then he shows (up) – and all of a sudden, I see him on TV making a pronouncement that he’s the head of ISIS,” Odierno recalled. “You have these individuals who’ve grown up now fighting the U.S. or whatever – an insurgency – and that becomes their life. And so they continue to grow and grow and grow and some of them become leaders of a movement, which is what he did.”

The retired general continued to sound the alarm about military cuts, saying the army has “lost capability” at a time when the likelihood of responding to threats on five continents is not hypothetical.

At the same time, the number of American troops dropped from over 100,000 to 50,000. In 2015, the White House sent 450 military advisers to train and assist Iraqi forces battling ISIS, with 5,000 troops.

Fox News’ William Turner contributed to this report.

Belgium Knew of the Network, Europe Knew

Note: There is the same movement in America but who gets that memo?

This website published an item last month on a very closely related movement in Belgium and honestly across Europe, the Shariah4 movement.

In fact this movement is at least 5 years old.

—- [Hot Issue] The Zerkani Network: Belgium’s Most Dangerous Jihadist Group // Terrorism Monitor – The Jamestown Foundation

In recent months, there have been key developments and insights regarding the notable number of Belgians fighting in Syria and Iraq. A recruitment organization whose existence was unearthed during a series of trials turned out to be one of the most active; the direct implication of the so-called Zerkani network in the Brussels and Paris attacks also makes it the most dangerous one. This analysis serves as an update to my May 2015 article in Terrorism Monitor “How Belgium Became a Top Exporter of Jihad,” and points out significant differences with other Belgian jihadist networks, as well as uncovers the nuances of their links with one another (Terrorism Monitor, May 29, 2015).

About a year ago, the neo-Islamist movement Shariah4Belgium was invariably named as the most significant factor behind the tremendous number of Belgian fighters in the Syrian-Iraqi conflict (Terrorism Monitor, May 29, 2015). According to the latest estimates, that figure can be as high as 589 by now. With 80 of the militants clearly linked to Shariah4Belgium, the network’s importance remains. The Zerkani network comes close, however. Hardly known twelve months ago, the Zerkani network appears to have sent at least 59 people to the jihad in Syria and Iraq (Pieter Van Ostaeyen, April 3). Three of these Zerkani jihadists have played a direct role in Europe’s latest terrorist attacks: Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh were perpetrators in Paris, while Najim Laachraoui participated in Brussels and is also suspected of being the bomb maker for both plots (Emmejihad, March 22).

The Zerkani Network’s Origins

The Zerkani network is named after Khalid Zerkani, a 42-year-old Moroccan who was living in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek. Before sentencing him to twelve years’ imprisonment on July 29 of last year, the judge described him as a “cynical guru.” According to the written judgment of the trial, Zerkani not only indoctrinated very young people up to the point where they were willing to sacrifice themselves, but also encouraged them to commit a slew of petty crimes in order to pay for their journey to death. [1] Though practicing Muslims are not allowed to steal from another, theft among the Zerkani network was whitewashed as taking “ghanima”— the spoils of war. That principle is said to have been introduced into the network by Reda Kriket, a Frenchman living in Belgium who was arrested shortly after the Brussels attacks on suspicion of yet another terrorist plot (Marianne, March 25).

It is not entirely clear whether Zerkani himself has ever been part of the terrorist plots in which his recruits had a role. It is possible that he only aimed at recruiting for a war abroad. The Belgian terrorists responsible for attacking the West after he recruited them may well have been selected and groomed for their deadly European missions behind Zerkani’s back. There are strong indications however, that Zerkani also plotted for that kind of action. As early as 2012, conversations about the need of attacks in the West were overheard by Belgian security services during a meeting in which he took part (Emmejihad, January 26). Moreover, Zerkani did not only recruit for the Syrian jihad; prior, he was linked to at least seven people convicted in Belgium for their cooperation with al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization based in Somalia. [2]

Zerkani’s Key Social Ties

Fatima Aberkan, a 55-year-old mother who has sent four of her own sons to the Syrian jihad, was convicted at the same trial as Zerkani. The judge described her as the “pasionaria of the jihad,” highlighting her enormous role in both the indoctrination of recruits and in organizing the logistics of their departure to war. Fatima Aberkan used to be the closest friend of Malika El Aroud, Europe’s most notorious female terror convict to date (Marie Claire, May 15, 2009). It was Aberkan who served as a go-between (with her e-mail address [email protected], to be more precise) for El Aroud and the latter’s second husband, Moez Garsallaoui, after his departure from Belgium in 2007 to become a high ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Afghan-Pakistani border zone. Aberkan was also responsible for providing Nizar Trabelsi—who was convicted for plotting against the U.S. Air Force base in the Belgian town of Kleine Brogel and later rendered to the U.S.—with a mobile phone in prison, adding to existing suspicions of a plot to set him free. [3]

Aberkan’s brother Abdelhouaid, was also convicted as a member of Zerkani’s network, notably for his role in the 2001 assassination of the Afghan anti-Taliban commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. He was responsible for driving El Aroud’s first husband, Dahmane Abd al-Satter, to the airport for the assassination, which was a suicide mission, and was considered to be preparation for the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. (LeMonde, April 19, 2005).

While Abdelhouaid Aberkan was convicted in Belgium for his part in the assassination of Commander Massoud, another person linked to the Zerkani network was tried in France for the same charge. Abderrahmane Ameuroud, 38, was arrested at a tram stop in the Brussels municipality of Schaarbeek on March 25 of this year, and was then shot in the leg. He is suspected of being part of a terrorist plot for which fellow Zerkani network member, Reda Kriket, had amassed an unprecedented amount of arms and explosives (Libération, March 30). According to the French-Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, Ameuroud is the youngest of three brothers who all have escalated their lawbreaking habits from petty crimes to Islamic terrorism (Twitter, March 26). Abderrahmane’s brother Reda was expulsed by France for radical sermons he held in a Paris mosque, while Abderrahmane is said to be a veteran of al-Qaeda’s training camps and was named a recruiter for the previous Iraqi jihad more than ten years ago (LeParisien, July 29, 2005).

Zerkani Network vs. Shariah4Belgium

Zerkani’s modus operandi could hardly differ more from that of Shariah4Belgium. The latter was notorious for its highly visible actions, such as public demonstrations and preaching sessions in crowded shopping streets. Zerkani’s organization had no website, no logo, and no distinctive name. Recruiting was done under the guise of offering community sporting activities, while further indoctrination happened in old-fashioned backrooms. While Shariah4Belgium’s leader Fouad Belkacem participated in televised debates and disseminated his sermons via YouTube, even the grainiest picture of Zerkani is extremely hard to locate. Zerkani was always sure to use someone else’s phone while calling abroad, and conversely, he had others in his network carry his phone to avoid being traced and geo-located. According to the court judgment mentioned above, Zerkani’s wariness supplemented the belief that he was trained in the famous Afghan-Pakistani terrorist camps, “as unconfirmed reports claim.” [4]

While most of the people Shariah4Belgium recruited between 2012 and the first months of 2014 were incorporated in the local militia “Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen” of the Syrian commander Amr al-Absi, Zerkani’s early recruits landed within the “Katibat al-Muhajireen,” which was led at the time by the ethnic-Chechen commander Tarkhan Batirashvili, better known as Abu Omar al-Shishani. Both groups were based in the outskirts of Aleppo and cooperated with one another, meaning that Belgian fighters of both networks interacted with each other regularly. Soon after the establishment of the so-called Islamic State (IS), al-Absi and al-Shishani pledged allegiance to the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But as was the case with the Shariah4Belgium recruits, several Zerkani members instead joined rival Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. What happened later in terms of individual affiliations is difficult to ascertain, though it appears most of the Zerkani recruits finally joined the Islamic State—similar to the many Shariah4Belgium members who had joined IS before them.

A remarkable characteristic of the Antwerp-based and mainly Dutch-speaking Shariah4Belgium is that it ostensibly lacked any link with older networks of the Belgian jihad. Apart from a few links with the remnants of the “Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain” (GICM), Shariah4Belgium does not seem rooted in Belgium’s extremist past (Emmejihad, June 7, 2014). This could not be more different from the Zerkani network, which operates almost exclusively in French-speaking circles in Brussels.

Although Shariah4Belgium and the Zerkani network have their dissimilarities, they are connected to a certain degree. The recent arrest of Shariah4Belgium convict Bilal El Makhoukhi, 27, in connection to the Brussels attacks, may have resulted from members of both networks having met each other at the Syrian front (De Redactie, April 9) as well as in Belgium. The man at the intersection of the two groups is Jean-Louis Denis, 41. He ran his own recruitment cell for the Syrian jihad, posing as a benefactor distributing food to the homeless near the Brussels “Gare du Nord” railway station. Denis was sentenced to ten years in jail in January 2016 for these charges (Le Soir, January 29). According to the outcome of this trial, he not only publicly declared himself to be the leader of the Brussels chapter of Shariah4Belgium, but even claimed to be in the running to replace its overall leader, Fouad Belkacem, after Belkacem’s arrest in June 2012. [5]

Denis was particularly successful as a recruiter, attracting people who wanted to join the jihad from as far as Martinique. However, he lacked the necessary contacts to get his recruits across Syrian borders. Therefore, he often relied on the social network structures that Zerkani had built. Based upon evidence presented at his trial, it was Denis’s lieutenant, Mohamed Khemir, 37, who served as most important go-between. At least once, Khemir accompanied Zerkani when he brought a young French recruit to the Brussels airport to travel to Syria. Zerkani, Khemir, and Denis were often present at the same meetings, and little by little, both groups almost seemed to merge. In the end, Denis’s entourage looked more like a chapter of Zerkani’s network than as a part of Shariah4Belgium, but left behind a significant number of jihadists who were influenced by both. [6]


Hardly known a year ago, Belgium’s Zerkani network has now been revealed to be the country’s most dangerous jihadist group. Led by the enigmatic Moroccan, Khalid Zerkani, it has sent at least 59 recruits to Syria and Iraq. Most of them have ended up within the terrorist group Islamic State, and at least three have returned to Western Europe to commit the deadly Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks. The modus operandi of the network differs greatly from that of Shariah4Belgium, the more renowned and equally as significant group fueling the high number of Belgian jihadists, though connections between the groups—both in Belgium and in the battlefield—are undoubtedly present.

Guy Van Vlierden is a journalist for the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, specializing in issues relating to terrorist and extremism.


[1] Judgment of the ‘Tribunal de Première Instance Francophone de Bruxelles’ issued on July 29, 2015 – in the possession of the author.

[2] Mentioned in the judgment of July 29, 2015 – cfr. Supra

[3] Mentioned in Italian court papers in the possession of the author; Mentioned in the judgment of July 29, 2015 – cfr. Supra.

[4] Mentioned in the judgment of July 29, 2015 – cfr. Supra.

[5] Judgment of the Tribunal de Premi̬re Instance Francophone de Bruxelles issued at January 29, 2016 Рin the possession of the author.

[6] All details mentioned in the judgment of January 29, 2016 – cfr. Supra.