Willems square (Laken) and the Paris and Brussels attacks. (part 2)

Johan Leman, 17 October 2021

In a first article, we explained how the authors of “Le clandestin de Daech” (Georges Dallemagne and Christophe Lamfalussy) see Oussama Atar (OA), the young boy from Willemsplein in Laeken, incorporated into the Islamic jihadist fabric and how, after imprisonment in Iraq, he was allowed to return earlier to Belgium under the influence of the Belgian State Security (BSS) and some politicians.

After return, OA mobilises young people In Laeken for jihadism, who are much more discreet about their ‘conversion’ than their Molenbeek companions, but who in practice will take up more important positions in Syria than the Molenbeekois. Salah Abdeslam from Molenbeek was never even in Syria, while one sees some young people from Laeken, including Sammy Djedou, leaving for Syria. According to the authors, Salah Abdeslam does not even seem to be involved in the first major preparations for the Paris attack. And even Abaaoud does not appear until later, when a commander in the field is sought in Europe. But back to Oussama Atar.

In October 2013, OA effortlessly obtains a passport from the municipality of Anderlecht to travel to Syria. He passes by Tunesia, but there he is detained by Tunisian Security and sent back to Belgium. No problem. Three days later, he travels without any obstacle to Turkey and from there he goed into Syria.

In November 2014, OA and Khalid El Bakraoui are both in Syria. In December 2014, the El Bakraoui brothers, as 100% psychopaths, test what it means when you coolly kill someone. They do this in Jette (Brussels), to feel what kind of feelings they may have when killing. That they committed the murder became known only after the attacks. It is Oussama Krayem who will tell it.

Nothing more is heard of OA. During the attacks, no attention is paid to him either, but all attention foes to Abaaoud, Salah Abdeslam, the Bakraoui brothers… However, there is a strange announcement later on. In the last recorded video of Baghdadi, on 29 April 2019, on Telegram, after the defeat at Baghouz, he thanks the fighters. When listing the commanders among his fighters, Baghdadi mentions two. One of them is called Abou Yassir al-Belgicki. At the OCAM it is assumed, according to the authors, that this is Oussama Atar.

What indications are there to support this assumption? Actually, there has been no news of OA since 11 December 2013, day OA left for Turkey. But the authors refer to a testimony by French journalist Nicolas Hénin, who was captured by IS. The gist of his testimony is that, without seeing the person concerned, he heard a guard speak Arabic with an Iraqi accent, and French at the same time. And that he had a high rank, considering what he could afford. There is also another testimony about someone from Laeken, younger than 30, about whom rumour had it that he had often been seen with OA. Adnani, second in command in IS, would have chosen OA for an elite unit to carry out attacks. OA would – rightly or wrongly, they assume – become the head of a cell that had to carry out attacks in Europe, with people like Abaaoud, Djedou, Laachraoui, Emwazi and others in its ranks. It is Osama Krayem, the terrorist who did not blow himself up in metro Maelbeek, who in 2018 is said to have spoken about such a cell, which would have been under the immediate command of Adnani and Baghdadi and thus would have had OA as its concrete leader. “Abaaoud did not know the El

Bakraoui brothers or Laachraoui, it is in contact with Oussama Atar that the cell was formed,” Osama Krayem said (p. 154).

OA allegedly planned the attacks in November 2014, with Khalid Bakraoui, Adnani and some others. This is when a group of Molenbeek people come into view: Brahim Abdeslam (brother of Salah), Ahmed Dahmani, Mohamed Abrini. Via Abrini, Najim Laachraoui and Abdelhamid Abaaoud join them. Between August and October 2015, those selected by OA will travel to Belgium in groups of two, with the task of placing themselves under Abaaoud’s command. OA, who was leading the operation and wanted to keep the overview, had himself named Abou Ahmad on this occasion, or “uncle” in correspondence. He is later formally recognised by a surviving participant in the operation as OA, and as the leader in Raqqa of the operation. In August 2016, the BSS discovers that Abou Ahmad is actually OA.

From a letter from OA to his mother, after the attacks, and presumably to excuse himself, OA reveals, according to the authors, that he would have left for Syria in 2013, because he would have refused to become an infiltrator for the BSS that was pressuring him for his early release from the Iraqi prison. Leaving for Syria he wanted – let it be understood – to get away from that pressure, true or not.

It is assumed that OA was knocked out by a US drone on 17 November 2017 in Syria. But some caution remains. Is he really dead ?

Authors’ conclusion: If a number of hypotheses that are not floating in a vacuum are correct, and one has to assume that Oussama Atar penetrated to the top of IS, then there is little to prevent the thesis that the attacks in Paris and Brussels were planned by him, or at least took place with his knowledge and approval… His recruitment for jihadism among serious criminals would also point in that direction.

“Atar is the true story of a man whose trajectory has been misjudged by the security services, his family, associations, diplomats, journalists and elected officials,” the authors conclude (p. 185). If the story is true, there is no reason not to talk about it. On the contrary.