An Iraqi judicial interrogation of a Moroccan-Belgian has highlighted his rise from a mere shop robber back home to an Islamic State trainer in Iraq and Syria, and a figure on Europe’s wanted list.
The newspaper of Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council published an interrogation made with Tareq Hakim Ahmed, known with his nom de guerre, Abu Hamza al-Beljiki, a prominent Islamic State commander who acted as a trainer for the militant group’s cadets and instigated attacks across Europe before he was arrested by Iraqi forces in Mosul, the group’s former capital in Iraq which was fully recapture early July.
According to the interrogation, Ahmed, jailed in Liege for robbing a supermarket, was recruited for the Islamic State via a fellow inmate, Rachid, a convicted drug dealer of a Tunisian origin.
Al-Beljiki tells interrogators he met with former fellow inmates in 2014 after ending his one-year stretch, collectively becoming more versed in Jihadist literature, and agreeing to move to Syria and Iraq. He said the booked a flight from Belgium, moving to Romania and eventually Turkey where they were transported by a group of Syrian collaborators across the borders into Syria’s Raqqa, the recently-recaptured Islamic State’s capital.
He said he and his three fellow newcomers spent four weeks in Raqqa and Tabqa, during which they received further Jihadist dictation, learned martial arts and pledged allegiance to IS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Ending his induction period, he was allocated a monthly payment of USD100, and was first assigned to a border guard post on the Syrian-Turkish borders.
At a later part of the interrogation, Beljiki tells of his introduction to a new post: a trainer of nearly 60 “Cubs of the Caliphate” the name given to IS’s children fighters. He trained children aged between eight and 13 on using medium firearms and martial arts, and they were mostly the children of Syrian migrants, he said.
Belgiki was ordered to move to Mosul in 2015 along with other comrades. As Iraqi troops successfully took over more territories in the city, his group was divided on whether to fight to death or flee, but a superior regional judge with IS threatened whoever thinks of escaping combat, to which Belgiki yielded before he was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Service in western Mosul on July 13th, 2017.
According to the newspaper, Beljiki’s role was not exclusive to combat. He also supervised cells in Europe and spurred attacks in Europe and the United States while luring more Europe-based individuals to join the war in Syria and Iraq.
“I had filmed video clips in Mosul urging Mujahideen in Europe, especially in France and Belgium, to carry out suicide attacks,” he was quoted saying in the interrogation.
Al-Belijik had been on European intelligence’s watchlist. Paris and Brussels had issued several statements concerning his survival or return to Europe. French police evacuated a northern Paris train station in May after a report that a person thought to be Beljiki was spotted there.