BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian police raided 46 homes in the northern city of Antwerp on Tuesday and arrested at least one man in an investigation into an Islamist group suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria’s civil war.
Prosecutors said Fouad Belkacem, the leader of Sharia4Belgium, had been detained, but they declined to say whether anyone else had been taken in.
“We have indications that Sharia4Belgium was sending people to Syria to join terrorist groups there,” a spokesperson for Belgium’s federal prosecutors said.
Foreign Islamist insurgents are increasingly playing a role in Syria’s civil war, which started in March 2011 with street protests against the four-decade rule of the family of President Bashar al-Assad.
The conflict pits the Sunni Muslim majority against Assad’s supporters among his Alawite sect and has prompted both Sunni and Shi’ite militants from elsewhere to fight in Syria. The Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.
Sharia4Belgium is a Salafist group opposed to Assad.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Alison Williams