KHALED ZERKANI – PAPA NOEL
* Khaled Zerkani was born in Zinata, Morocco in 1973 and is a 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 Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. With time Khaled Zerkani became the main recruiter of the so called Molenbeek Cell in Brussels.
Based in the Brussels area of Molenbeek, Khaled Zerkani was seen as guru of a network that from 2012 to 2014 recruited jihadists to fight in Syria, like Sabri Rafla,. earning himself the nickname Papa Noel for the gifts he gave to his recruits, stolen goods ,
Belgian prosecutors launched an investigation into the Khaled Zerkani’s network in 04/2012. Its members were monitored but allowed to move freely for the next two years, until Belgian police carried out several round-ups at the start of 2014. Zerkani himself was arrested in 02/2014.
Khaled Zerkani was jailed in 07/2015 for 12 years but prosecutors called for a longer sentence, arguing he had corrupted entire communities of youth.
In 02/2016, federal prosecutor Bernard Michel told the Brussels court of appeal that Zerkani was “the biggest recruiter of candidates for jihad” that Belgium had known. He also had direct mobile contact with so-called Islamic State, he said.
Khaled Zerkani has been given, on Thursday 04/14/2016, 15 years in jail by a Belgian appeal court for recruiting Islamists, including some of the Paris and Brussels attackers. Zerkani’s fellow recruiter Fatima Aberkane (pic-L) was also given 15 years. According to court files Khalid Zerkani not only preach to would-be jihadists but also put them in touch with smugglers in Turkey who would transport them into Syria.
Among his recruits were Paris attackers Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Chakib Akrouh, and Brussels bomber Najim Laachraoui. The most recent arrest linked to the Zerkani network is that of Reda Kriket, detained in Paris after the Brussels bombings on suspicion of planning an imminent attack on Paris.
** Khalid Zerkani was freed, on 05/13/2016, pending his appeal.
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