PARIS — The two teenage friends hardly seemed like Islamic radicals. They smoked marijuana, drank beer, listened to rap and wore jeans.
Yet the pair of French Muslims died as rebels in Iraq — one as a suicide car bomber, said relatives who traced the young men’s path from the slums of Paris through a religious school in Syria to the fight against the U.S.-led coalition next door.
Like many young Muslims here, Abdelhalim Badjoudj and Redouane el-Hakim didn’t have jobs, and relatives and friends say they grew more alienated in recent years, surrounded by secular Western culture and by what many Muslims see as a subtle bigotry among the French against Arabs.
Badjoudj, who would have turned 19 on Dec. 16, is thought to have blown himself up on Oct. 20 while driving a car filled with explosives near a U.S. patrol on Baghdad’s airport road, wounding two American soldiers and two Iraqi police officers. He is thought to be the second French citizen to have carried out a suicide attack in Iraq.
The body of el-Hakim, 19, reportedly was found July 17, after U.S. troops bombed a suspected insurgent hide-out in Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad that was overrun this month by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
French officials also confirmed the death of a third French insurgent, identified as Tarek W. In his 20s, he reportedly was killed Sept. 17 after operating for several months in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where most foreign fighters are based. No other details were available.
Although the number of French-born fighters in Iraq appears small — perhaps a dozen or more — anti-terrorism officials worry that some of the young men of mostly Tunisian and Algerian descent will return home with combat skills to wage jihad in France.
“They become like stars,” said Gilles Leclair, director of France’s Anti-Terrorism Coordination Unit. Mr. Leclair confirmed the deaths of el-Hakim, Badjoudj and Tarek W. and suggested that there were more like them in Iraq.
“We have intelligence information that some people are still present in Iraq,” Mr. Leclair said. But he said, “It’s too early to say we have 10, 15, 40.”
El-Hakim and Badjoudj lived in the same northern Paris neighborhood. Both were unemployed and came from broken families.
“If he had work, this wouldn’t have happened,” Badjoudj’s uncle, Hicham, said. “He saw no future for himself.”
The uncle, who insisted that he be quoted only by his first name, said Badjoudj never knew his father, an Algerian who left his Tunisian mother when he was 3 and his brother Sabri was about 1.
Badjoudj’s mother — Hicham’s sister — had five more children with her second husband, an Egyptian, and might be living in Syria or Egypt, he said.
Hicham said Sabri, 17, followed Badjoudj to Iraq a couple of months ago and might have recently moved to the northern city of Mosul after the U.S. offensive in Fallujah.
The uncle is at a loss to explain why Badjoudj was willing to sacrifice his life in Iraq, when he could hardly speak Arabic or identify with that country’s culture.View Entire Story
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