A Belgian man who has become famous for saving five young men from waging jihad in the Middle East, including his own son, is warning that contacts he made during those journeys have spoken of “sleeper cell” terrorist organizations built in plain sight in European nations.
Dimitri Bontinck, a man who has come to be known in the UK as the “jihadi hunter” for his repeated trips to the Middle East to bring back brainwashed European youth, told the Daily Mail that secretive elders from various jihadist groups are preparing to commit acts of terror within Europe, not just the Middle East. “Their aim is to take revenge against the west for what they view as an all-out assault on them, and they will strike when they are ready,” Bontinck warned, “I’ve been told by very influential sources that they have sleeper cells over here, and are preparing to unleash their war in Europe.”
Bontinck, who is currently helping his son, Jejoen, fight a criminal case against him for joining the terrorist group Jahbat al-Nursa (the al-Nusra Front) in Syria, argues that it is the elder men of the terrorist groups that are the real danger, as they manipulate gullible teenagers into committing unspeakable acts in the name of Islam. “It’s not the kids who are the principal danger – it’s the chiefs whom you never see in the videos,” he tells the Daily Mail, “The mature men running this organisation are deeply sinister, and extremely well-funded, and they have European countries such as Britain, France and Belgium in their sights.”
Bontinck lost his son to jihad after Jejeon asked for permission to study abroad in Egypt. It did not take long for Bontinck to find photos of his son with fellow jihadists in Syria and begin a quest to reunite with his son. Traveling to Syria with an aide he found through a newspaper ad, Bontinck told CNN the jihadists of the al-Nusra Front were hospitable to him, as he defined his purpose in their homeland as finding his son, a fellow jihadist. Perhaps thinking Bontinck had willingly sacrificed his son to the cause, or simply out of some affinity for him, Bontinck says they helped him find Jejeon. “They took me in and they all respect me,” he told CNN, “I meet with so many groups like Jabhat al-Nusra… and I am not Muslim. And when you see what these people have done for me! They arranged for my sleeping and food.”
In the Daily Mail interview, Bontinck says he made “excellent contacts” on the ground there, which allowed him to bring back four more young men from the battlefield. But while the al-Nusra Front was helpful, the Islamic State has sent him multiple death threats, as well as threatened his family.
Bontinck appears as concerned about European sleeper cells as he does about jihadists in the Middle East. The estimated number of European citizens in Syria and Iraq fighting for the Islamic State seem to back his concerns: as of September, it is believed that up to 3,000 Islamist Europeans have moved to Syria or Iraq to wage jihad with the Islamic State.