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Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2018

Belgium joined covert US operation to track down and kill foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq

nsnbc : It has emerged that Belgium is taking part in a covert U.S.-led operation to track down and kill foreign Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. Belgium is participating by collecting intelligence passed on to colleagues from the United States. No Belgians are, reportedly, involved in the tracking and killing part themselves.

Belgian troops US troops, Iraq, Syria, 2018 archivesThe news about the operation and Belgium’s participation in what arguably amounts to extrajudicial executions and war crimes was first reported by Jens Franssen from Belgium’s VRT News.

The operation, dubbed “Gallant Phoenix” started in 2015 and was led from the central command of U.S. special forces. The aim is to collect as much information as possible from the frontline using laptop computers and mobile phones captured from foreign fighters. The fall of Mosul reportedly yielded a wealth of information. Operation command for  “Gallant Phoenix” is based in Jordan where staff maintains a database of foreign fighters.

Ironically, in the early stages of the Syria war, Jordan, or more precisely the region around the border town of Al-Mafraq and the Ramtha Air Base functioned as staging grounds for two major invasions of Syria by the then US, Qatari and Turkey backed Libyan Brigade consisting mainly of fighters organized by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

Al-Mafraq - recruitment and staging area.

Al-Mafraq – recruitment and staging area.

Later on until the present, Jordan functions as one of the main hubs for the trafficking of weapons and fighters to Islamist insurgents in Syria. The track record of U.S. troops in Jordan prompts the question whether the U.S. is killing or if it also is “managing” insurgents via “Gallant Phoenix”.

The US aim is allegedly to kill as many foreign fighters as possible. The story of how US, UK and French forces track down foreign fighters on the frontline has already been widely documented in the media. At present 21 nations are taking part in the operation.

Belgian defense sources have confirmed Belgian participation in “Gallant Phoenix” for two years now. A small number of Belgians are involved. Originally Belgian Special Forces were to be deployed, but in the event it is Belgian military intelligence that is participating. Members of the Belgian ADIV carry out secret operations abroad using members of the armed forces schooled in intelligence. The ADIV also liaises between Operation “Gallant Phoenix” and the Belgian authorities.

Military sources VRT News has spoken to stress that at no time have any Belgians been directly involved in killings. Belgian elite units are deployed in northern Iraq, but are there to assist the Kurds in their fight against IS. They have instructions not to intervene directly. Belgian military units train Kurdish forces and members of the Iraqi regular army.

CH/L – nsnbc 09.03.2018

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