This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/1335

First female suicide bomber in Iraq was Belgian convert wife of Muslim - attack leads to arrest of 14 in suicide bomber recruiting network in Belgium

November 30, 2005

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L30455192.htm

Belgium arrests 14 over links to suicide bomber 30 Nov 2005 16:38:28 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds confirmation of arrest in France, other details, quotes)

By Emma Davis

BRUSSELS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Police in Belgium and France arrested 15 people on Wednesday in a roundup of suspected Islamist militants believed to be linked to a Belgian woman who carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq this month.

The 38-year-old convert to Islam blew herself up on Nov. 9 on the outskirts of Baghdad in what security sources believe was the first suicide attack in Iraq involving a European woman.

Belgian police arrested 14 people and seized documents in raids centred on Brussels and Antwerp. They arrested two Tunisians, three Moroccans and the rest were Belgian nationals, Lieve Pellens, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor, told Reuters.

The fifteenth suspect was arrested close to Paris.

The group had been under surveillance for four months after Belgium received intelligence about a suspected terrorist cell operating on its soil, but the suicide bomber had slipped out of the country unnoticed.

"It was through this organisation that the lady went to Iraq with her husband, but we only knew about her presence ... once she was already there," said Glenn Audernaert, a senior law enforcement official.

Police brought forward the raids by a couple of weeks after leaks in the French media about the investigation, but Audernaert said the raids had netted all the suspects.

They were detained under Belgium's new anti-terrorist law, which defined terrorism as a crime for the first time.

The woman's identity was not disclosed, but officials said she was born in Belgium of European origin and converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim.

REAR BASE

One of the chief suspects arrested on Wednesday was a male Belgian convert to Islam, a police spokesman said.

"We know these groups are always planning attacks ... What we can say is there were no attacks planned in Europe," he said.

No explosives or weapons were found in the raids but police found evidence linking the suspects to what he called a terrorist organisation focused on Iraq.

He would not name the group but said it was not the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) which is held responsible for the 2004 Madrid attacks on commuter trains that killed 191 people.

De Standaard newspaper earlier quoted a U.S. official in Iraq as saying the Nov. 9 attack targeted a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad. No one was killed apart from the woman herself, it reported.

It added a Belgian passport was found on her body, with papers which showed she had entered Iraq via Turkey.

Belgium, home to European Union institutions and NATO, has suffered no attacks but is thought to have been used as a rear base for Islamic militants active elsewhere.

Earlier this month, 13 men accused of belonging to the GICM, which is also blamed for bombings in Casablanca where 45 people were killed, went on trial in Brussels.

They face charges of providing false papers, safe houses and logistical help to members of the GICM in the Madrid attacks.

German federal police chief Joerg Ziercke referred earlier this month to estimates that "perhaps 200 young people are fighting in Iraq from European countries".

A French intelligence chief said in May that five young men from a Paris suburb had died in Iraq, one in a suicide attack.

Spain arrested 16 suspected Islamist militants in June including 11 alleged followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. It said many of the Zarqawi supporters had expressed the will to become "martyrs for Islam" there. (Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan in Berlin)

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Europe's woman suicide bomber

Nicholas Watt in Brussels
Thursday December 1, 2005
The Guardian

Police in Belgium and France launched a series of raids yesterday against a suspected terrorist network after a Belgian-born convert to Islam blew herself up in Baghdad, becoming Europe's first woman suicide bomber.

More than 200 officers arrested 15 suspects in four cities three weeks after the 38-year-old woman, who converted to Islam after marrying a Moroccan Islamist radical, earned her grisly place in history.

According to De Standaard, Belgium's main Flemish newspaper, the woman attempted to target a US military convoy south of Baghdad on November 9. A US official told the paper that she was the only person who died, but other media reports spoke of five or six deaths.

One Belgian official gave the woman's first name as Murielle and said she lived in Brussels and that her parents were from a middle-class district of Charleroi. A Belgian passport was found on her body with papers showing that she had entered Iraq via Turkey. She had apparently entered the country by car with her husband. He died in Iraq in a separate incident.

After the woman's nationality was confirmed by Belgium's security service, the SŻretť de l'Etat, police in Paris arrested a 27-year-old Tunisian man who is believed to have known the woman's husband. The man, who moved to France several months ago, was arrested in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.

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http://www.volkskrant.nl/buitenland/1133330268749.html

BRUSSEL - In BelgiŽ is woensdag een netwerk opgerold dat zelfmoordenaars ronselde voor de jihad in Irak. Ook de autochtone Belgische vrouw die zich onlangs heeft opgeblazen nabij Bagdad, was daarbij betrokken.

'We denken een organisatie te hebben ontmanteld die mensen begeleidde naar strijdtonelen van de jihad, ze logistiek ondersteunde en ze eventueel weer opving indien ze naar BelgiŽ terugkeerden', aldus Glenn Audenaert, gerechtelijk directeur van de federale politie in Brussel. 'We gaan ervan uit dat ze van plan waren meer mensen naar Irak te sturen.'

Bij veertien huiszoekingen, elf in Brussel, een in Antwerpen, Charleroi en Riemst (vlak over de Belgische grens bij Maastricht), werden veertien mensen opgepakt. Negen arrestanten werden voorgeleid aan de onderzoeksrechter. Drie van hen hebben een Tunesisch paspoort, twee de Marokkaanse nationaliteit, de anderen de Belgische. Een van hen is een mannelijke Belg die zich tot de islam heeft bekeerd, aldus de politie.

In Parijs werd een tiende verdachte opgepakt. De 27-jarige Tunesische man wordt ervan verdacht banden te hebben met het Belgische terroristische netwerk.

De politie en inlichtingendiensten observeerden de groep al vier maanden. De zelfmoordactie van de autochtone Belgische vrouw, drie weken geleden, bracht het onderzoek in een stroomversnelling. Toen vervolgens het nieuws over haar aanslag uitlekte, besloot de politie sneller dan aanvankelijk de bedoeling was tot actie over te gaan en de veertien huiszoekingen te doen.

De 38-jarige vrouw zou zijn geboren in een middenklasse milieu in Charleroi. Ze reed op 9 november in op een politiepost nabij Bagdad. De westerse inlichtingendiensten waren ervan op de hoogte dat zij zich in Irak ophield, maar konden niet meer ingrijpen toen haar plannen eenmaal duidelijk werden. Bij de aanslag zou alleen zijzelf om het leven zijn gekomen. Ze was niet betrokken bij de aanslag van 9 november waarbij vijf militairen werden gedood.

De vrouw was getrouwd met een Marokkaan met een Belgisch paspoort. 'Deze radicale moslim bekeerde haar tot het islamitisch fundamentalisme en heeft haar in contact gebracht met de organisatie die haar als jihad-strijder naar Irak kon brengen', aldus Audenaert van de federale politie. De echtgenoot werd onlangs in Irak neergeschoten door Amerikaanse strijdkrachten, omdat hij ook een zelfmoordactie wilde plegen.

Momenteel loopt in Brussel een terrorismeproces tegen dertien vermeende leden van de Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain. Ze zijn na de aanslagen in Madrid opgepakt in Maaseik en Brussel. Het betreft het derde terrorismeproces in BelgiŽ sinds 11 september 2001.

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/1335