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19 Belgians are hauled into court as jihadi trial begins
Security was tight at the Brussels criminal court Monday as 19 Belgians facing terrorism-related charges began their trial. The 15 men and four women were allegedly part of a jihadist recruitment network and face charges of either fighting with known jihadists in Somalia, making efforts to go to Somalia or Syria to fight or establishing a recruitment network within Belgium.
Although all of the defendants are charged with being in a terrorist group, one man, a Brussels hairdresser named Hassan Khafi, has admitted that he did leave Belgium for Somalia in 2011 to join the Al-Shebab militant group, which has been tied to Al-Qaeda. However, Khafi claims that he never fought with the group, as Belgians were not trusted by Al-Shebab. His passport was confiscated and he was arrested in Kenya for illegal entry in May 2012 before being returned to Belgium.
There is concern that conflicts, such as the one raging in Syria, are radicalising young Belgians who may help recruit once they return home.