Khalid Zerkani, Brussels’ jihadist preacher who ‘perverted a generation’

France 24 reports: Thursday’s arrest near Paris of a man alleged to have been in the “advanced stages” of plotting a terrorist attack has cast the spotlight back on a Brussels-based jihadist recruitment network that Belgian authorities cracked but failed to neutralise.

Reda Kriket, whom French police arrested in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil on Thursday, had been convicted in absentia by Belgian authorities for his role in the so-called “Zerkani network” – which radicalised Muslim youths and pushed them to wage jihad in Syria.

The network’s leader, radical preacher Khalid Zerkani, has been described by Belgian investigators as the country’s “biggest recruiter” of jihadist fighters.

The Moroccan-born Belgian national operated from underground mosques in the now notorious Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, which has been linked to a string of terrorist attacks ranging from the 2001 killing of Afghan hero Ahmad Shah Massoud to the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Zerkani, 42, ran a network of petty criminals and used the proceeds to send jihadists to Syria. His long beard and habit of allowing thieves to keep part of the spoils earned him the nickname “Father Christmas”. [Continue reading…]

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