Last year, Abou Hamza left his native Morocco to wage holy war in Syria, bringing both his wife and sons with him. He talked to FRANCE 24 and RFI about his experience as a jihad fighter for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
With a large smile on his bearded face, 46-year-old Abou Hamza’s many Facebook photos of himself posing with his children could belong to almost any father – save for one telling detail; the whole family are proudly clutching AK-47’s.
In February 2013, the family traded in their peaceful life in Morocco to fight jihad in Syria.
Abou Hamza says he didn’t think twice about recruiting his children – even though some of them were barely teenagers.
Hamza posing with his sons
“There was never a problem with bringing the children because they are convinced (of the need for jihad). They weren’t working, they were all at school. Their mother came too. And we’re still here, safe and sound,” he told FRANCE 24’s Wassim Nasr and RFI journalist David Thomson in a joint telephone interview from his new home in Turkey.
The more than one-year stint in Syria was not Abou Hamza’s first experience of fighting jihad. In 2007, he tried to make his way to Iraq, but was arrested at the Syrian border, then extradited to Morocco and jailed.
Hamza with one of his sons
But his time in prison did little to change his mind about jihad. In 2012, just six months after his release, Abou Hamza boarded a flight intending to fight holy war in Syria.
In February 2013, he crossed the border into the war-ravaged country where he was reunited with his family.
Once in Syria, Abou Hamza and his sons joined the ISIL, and for the next 12 months, they fought together in Syria’s western Latakia region. “We’ve always fought together, side by side. We’ve never been separated,” he said.
Hamza and his sons
Discouraged by jihadist infighting
But after more than a year on the frontline, Abou Hamza became discouraged by the infighting between the jihadists as ISIL and the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front battled for more control.
Despite al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s orders that the al-Nusra Front be the group’s official representative in Syria, ISIL was seeking to extend its authority.
Hamza and his sons
Weary of the infighting, Abou Hamza and his family eventually decided to leave Syria.
Although today they all live in Turkey, Abou Hamza says jihad is still very much part of the plan.
“I don’t think I’ll return to Syria, but I plan to stay on the path of jihad. I haven’t decided where I’ll wage jihad yet, but it won’t be in Syria, I would rather it was in another country.”
Date created : 2014-05-13