BRUSSELS (EJP)---Belgian authorities are to sent a team of police officers to Morocco where the Interior Minister announced this week the arrest of the leader of a terrorist ring who is accused of having assassinated a Belgian Jewish leader 18 years ago.
Minister Chakib Benmoussa told a press conference on Wednesday in Rabat, capital of Morocco, that the dismantled Al-Qaeda linked group planned to assassinate government ministers, soldiers and members of the Jewish community in Morocco, and had carried out crimes internationally.
He said that the man considered to be the head of the terrorist network, Belgian-Morrocan Abdelkader Belliraj, committed six murders in Belgium between 1986 and 1989 "which had not been elucidated yet." Among these, the assassination of Joseph Wybran, head of CCOJB, the umbrella representative group of Jewish organizations in Belgium, on 3 October 1989, and the murder six months earlier of the imam of the Brussels mosque, Abdullah el-Ahdi.
Wybran, an immunologist of international reputation, was killed in the parking lot of Erasme Hospital in Brussels where he worked. He was 48. His assassination, which shocked the 40,000-member Jewish community, has never been elucidated and was at the time attributed to Palestinian terrorist group Abu Nidal.
Wybran’s wife, Emmy, who learned news of Belliraj’s arrest in the media and is still a plaintiff, told EJP that despite the fact that police investigation went astray she always thought that the murder of her husband and the imam’s killing were linked. "They both were man of peace and dialogue. Extremists don’t like people of dialogue," she said.
She hopes that 18 years after the assassination truth will come out. “I want to see the face of the people who masterminded and executed the assassination, she says.
The Moroccan minister said: "the Belliraj terrorist network planned to carry out terrorist attacks with the help of firearms and explosives, and to assassinate high-profile Moroccan figures.”
It also sought to organise training in cooperation with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2005, Benmoussa said, and some members of the network had access to training in manufacturing explosives.
A large consignment of weapons has also been found which had been financed by hold-ups abroad -- notably a robbery at the headquarters of the Brinks security company in Luxembourg in 2000.
The arsenal included nine Kalashnikov assault rifles, two machine-guns with six magazines and a silencer, seven sub-machine guns, 16 automatic pistols and various munitions and detonators.
The 32 people detained so far include a police officer and a Moroccan journalist, Abdelhafid Sriti, who is the Rabat correspondent of the Lebanese television station Al Manar, belonging to the Islamist Hezbollah organisation.
Three Moroccans resident in Belgium, including suspected leader Belliraj, are among those indicted.
Following a suicide attack in Casablanca in May 2003 that left 45 dead, Morocco adopted a new law aimed at tackling extremist movements.
Meanwhile, Moroccan prosecutors may reopen the case of an attempted murder of a Casablanca Jew in 1996 after questioning alleged members of the ring.
"Since there are admissions from among those charged and arrested who have knowledge of the facts, the case should logically be re-opened," said the source.
The 1996 drive-by shooting of Abraham Azenkot by two men on a speeding motorbike is the first specific case to have been raised from the ministry's archives following the mass arrests.
Azenkot, now a 63-year-old a business administrator, told AFP he had "turned the page" on the attack, and was unwilling to comment any further.