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Frenchman active in Belgian Islamist circles killed in Syria, report says

Published: Updated:

A 38-year-old Frenchman well-known in radical Islamist circles in Belgium was killed Sunday while fighting for an Islamist brigade in Syria, Belgian media said.

Raphael Gendron left for Syria several months ago to fight with the ‘Falcons of Sham’ headed by Abdelrahman Ayachi who was wounded Sunday and who is the son of Syrian-born radical Imam Bassam Ayachi, the SudPresse newspaper group said in a report on its website.

Belga news agency, citing a relative, confirmed Gendron’s death.

Gendron had lived in Belgium for several years and was active at the Assabyle Islamic Center in Belgium (CIB) headed by Ayachi senior, aged 68. He ran its website and in 2009 was fined for inciting hatred for a video posted on a CIB webpage.

The same year he and Ayachi senior were arrested in southern Italy after police found undocumented migrants in their van.

They were accused of organizing a network linked to Al-Qaeda but after four years behind bars were let off by the courts and returned to Belgium last July.

Belgian authorities have expressed concern in the last weeks over the departure to Syria of some 80 young Islamist radicals and are taking steps to counter the departure of others.