Belgian extremist arrested in kidnapping probe

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A leading suspect arrested by Belgian police on suspicion of kidnapping a 13-year-old is an extremist with terrorism convictions, a source close to the investigation told AFP on Tuesday.

Khalid Bouloudo, 45, was arrested on Monday along with five others, accused of taking the young son of a suspected drug dealer hostage for ransom and holding him for 42 days until his release on Sunday.

Bouloudo – identified by prosecutors by his initials and hometown: “B.K. of Maaseik” – is a former member of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), an extremist group with ties to al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

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He was due to go on trial in September accused of running a GICM cell in Belgium, having had a previous conviction overturned after an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2018 he was convicted of a terrorism offence for recruiting fighters to join an extremist faction in Syria’s civil war, but his 10-year sentence was reduced to three years suspended on appeal.

The source told AFP others among the six suspects arrested with Bouloudo are also suspected of extremism ties, but it was not clear whether the kidnap will be prosecuted as terrorist fundraising or a simple crime.

The GICM is an armed movement linked to al-Qaeda which is suspected of having participated in attacks in Madrid that left 191 dead on March 11, 2004 and Casablanca, in which 45 were killed on May 16, 2003.

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