Saturday, March 1, 2008

Alleged Moroccan extremist was Belgian spy

Morocco’s Belliraj said to have provided information to Belgium's internal security service for 8 years.

BRUSSELS - The alleged leader of a Moroccan extremist group and suspect in several murders in Belgium was a long-time informer for the Belgian authorities, local media reported Friday.

Abdelkader Belliraj, who has dual Moroccan and Belgian nationality, was arrested in Morocco last week, along with over 30 associates, as the alleged terrorist network was suspected of preparing acts of violence in Morocco.

The VTM television channel said Belliraj provided information to Belgium's internal security service for eight years.

The De Standaard daily's website ran a similar report, without giving any sources.

A spokesman for Belgium's justice ministry refused to confirm or deny the reports but said a statement may be released later.

Belliraj, 50, was taken into custody when Moroccan police announced they had dismantled "a major terrorist network with jihadist (holy war) roots."

The 35 were arrested under the north African kingdom's penal code and anti-terrorist legislation passed in the wake of Casablanca attacks on May 16, 2003, that killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers.

Police have said the dismantled network had large caches of weapons. They were reported to be in possession of explosives, detonators, nine Kalashnikov automatic weapons, two machine-guns, seven machine-pistols and 16 hand guns.

The Moroccan interior ministry claims Belliraj was behind six unsolved murders in Belgium, committed between 1986 and 1989.

According to a Belgian judicial source, the Moroccan authorities suspect the cell of carrying out three political assassinations in Belgium in 1989.

These were a Jewish community representative and two Muslim leaders who did not support the fatwa pronounced on British writer Salman Rushdie following the publication of his book "The Satanic Verses", which angered some Muslims.

Belgian media have also reported that Belliraj was behind a fourth killing, that of the Egyptian chauffeur of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Belgium who was shot dead in 1989.

Source: Middle East Online (Arab news source - Facts to be taken with caution)

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