Belgium terror plot: Kamikaze Riders motorbike club members charged with planning attacks on Brussels

They were charged as authorities cancelled the Belgian capital's main fireworks display over the terror threat

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The Independent Online

Two members of a motorbike gang with alleged links to global terror networks are among the suspects arrested over a plot to launch attacks in Brussels.

Authorities said a suspected Isis terror cell were planning to attack high-profile targets in the Belgian capital over the festive season, prompting the cancellation of its main New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

Military fatigues, Airsoft replica gun equipment, Isis propaganda, phones and computers have been seized from homes of the alleged suspects in a series of police raids.

Charles Michel, the Belgian Prime Minister, would not be drawn on whether security forces had successfully thwarted an attack.

“I do not want to categorically say ‘we escaped’ or ‘we didn’t escape’…when investigations have progressed over the coming weeks we will be able to speak more certainly,” he said in a television interview.

Two arrested over Brussels New Year plot

A 30-year-old man named as Said Saouti has been charged with threatening terror attacks, recruiting people with the aim of carrying them out and participating in the activities of a terrorist group, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said.

His alleged accomplice, Mohammed Karay, 27, is accused of making terror threats and participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

The two Belgians, who deny the charges, are members of the Kamikaze Riders motorcycle club, which has been previously described by a security expert as “closely associated with jihadists active in Iraq and Syria”.

Although the group uses Japanese imagery and bikes, the word “kamikaze” is also used to refer to suicide bombers in French.

Alexandra Jones, a strategic crime analyst based at The Hague, wrote that the group was founded by Saouti and his friends, and mainly joined by men of Moroccan descent in Antwerp and Brussels.

Before his arrest this week, she called Saouti a “Salafist preacher” who allegedly named Anwar al-Awlaki, among other extremists, as his teacher. 

The article, posted on the Foreign Intrigue website, claimed to show a photo of Saouti with an Isis flag in the background, along with evidence of Islamist extremism from other members on social media.

The Facebook page appearing to belong to Said Saouti lists a dead al-Qaeda recruiter as his 'place of work'

What appears to be Saouti’s current Facebook page lists al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda recruiter killed by an American drone strike in Yemen, as his “place of work”.

Belgian media reports said he had also been associated with the now banned Sharia4Belgium group.

Karay works as a car mechanic and is also a paintball enthusiast, La Dernière Heure reported.

Links between the Kamikaze Riders and extremism were previously drawn in Belgium when founder Abdelouafi Elouassaki, who has since died in a road accident, was investigated for alleged links to Islamist extremism but cleared of involvement. His three brothers are said to have fought with Isis in Syria.

A member of the Kamikaze riders said the group was not a gang or linked to terrorism.

Saouti and Karay were defended by a member of the Kamikaze Riders, who said he had never seen any indication of extremism.

Ludovic Ansel insisted the group was not a gang or terrorist group and could not be blamed for any opinions individuals might hold.

“It’s not only Arabs or Muslims,” told RTL radio. “There are Christians, there are Africans – we are a family. We make video clips, we hold motorbike rallies, we do charity work for disadvantaged schools.”

A judge has ordered Saouti and Karay to be held for a month as investigations continued on Thursday with another wave of raids.

Seven searches were carried out in Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Laken and Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, resulting in six more arrests.

Belgian police said the plot is not related to the continuing investigation into the Paris attacks, which saw a Belgian man identified as Ayoub B charged with “terrorist murders” on Thursday.

The 22-year-old was the tenth suspect to be arrested in Belgium over the massacres that killed 130 people.