Belgian Police Arrest Two Men Linked to 'Jihadi' Motorcycle Club

The suspects were planning terror attacks, prosecutors say; most members of the Kamikaze Riders are Muslim extremists of North African origin, the Belgian media adds

The Kamikaze Riders, a Muslim motorcycle club in Belgium.
Kamikaze Riders / Facebook

BRUSSELS – Two members of a Muslim biker club suspected of planning terror attacks in Belgium were arrested Tuesday night as police raided four homes in Brussels and found weapons, prosecutors said.

In a garage in the city's Anderlecht district, anti-terrorist police found weapons including three Kalashnikovs, ammunition, three pistols and other firearms, and four detonators.

They also discovered security-service and police uniforms and a flashing-blue police light, suggesting that the suspects planned to impersonate police to carry out their attacks, prosecutors said.

Two brothers, identified as Akim Saouti, 40, and Khalid Saouti, 37, have been charged. A third brother, Sa’id, is already in a Belgian prison, suspected of involvement in the November 2015 attacks in Paris. Two other people were briefly detained and released.

Prosecutors said the arrests were separate from the investigations into the November 2015 attacks, which killed 130 people, and the attacks in Brussels four months later, which killed 32.

Police raiding an apartment building in northern France, July 5, 2017.
Denis Charlet / AP

Belgian state media reported that the men arrested Tuesday were linked to a motorcycle club known as the Kamikaze Riders, founded in Anderlecht in 2003. Most of the members are Muslim extremists of North African origin and have been linked to jihadi groups, the media said.

The biker gang is often in trouble with the police for organizing dangerous motorcycle competitions on the ring roads around Brussels. A few members have been arrested for robbery and other crimes.

The group has become increasingly extremist in recent years; a number of members have reportedly gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. Others have been suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Belgium and France.

The raid in Anderlecht followed a long investigation by French and Belgian anti-terrorist units.

During the operation, which was conducted in cooperation with French police, a fifth person was detained in a suburb of the northern French city of Lille. The suspect fled a house but was detained in an adjacent street, dressed only in a T-shirt and shorts.