Thursday, December 01, 2005

Muriel Degauque shocks Belgium.

Iraq: More news on the Belgian Muslim convert who became a suicide bomber.

"....Belgian prosecutors say Degauque carried out an attack Nov. 9 near an American military patrol in Iraq after entering the country from Syria a month ago, and was the only person killed. "It is the first time that we see a Western woman, a Belgian, marrying a radical Muslim and is converted up to the point of becoming a jihad fighter," federal police director Glenn Audenaert said. Authorities say Degauque had been a member of a terror group that embraced al-Qaida's ideology. The group included her second husband, a Belgian of Moroccan origin who entered Iraq with Degauque and was killed in murky circumstances while trying to set up a separate suicide bombing. Experts said converts to Islam like Degauque are often easy prey for extremists because their search for a new identity can make them impressionable. "The phenomenon is not really new for the security services, but it is for the public. For them it is a real shock," said Edwin Bakker, a terrorism expert at the Clingendael Institute in the Hague, Netherlands. "They are looking for ... a new sense to their life." Media reports said Degauque had problems with drugs and alcohol as an adolescent but later turned to a particularly strict form of Islam. Experts say that is a common pattern for Western-born recruits to Islamic radicalism. ....Authorities on Thursday formally arrested five of 14 suspects detained in dawn raids the day before and charged them with involvement in a terrorist network that sent volunteers to Iraq, including Muriel Degauque. Nine were released. Those placed under arrest were a Tunisian and four Belgians, three with North African ancestry. "This action shows how international terrorism tries to set up networks in western European nations, recruit for terror attacks in conflict areas and look for funds to finance terrorism," said Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. In France, police in the Paris region arrested a 15th suspect, a 27-year-old Tunisian thought to have contacts with the Belgian group. Authorities said the Belgian network had been planning to send more volunteers to Iraq for attacks."

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