Gang leader fought in Syria, documentary reveals

Abderrozak Benarabe could face terrorism charges after footage from a documentary recently sold to DR2 shows him fighting alongside a rebel group in Syria last year

A prominent gang member could be charged with terrorism for fighting in Syria alongside an Islamic resistance group, Berlingske newspaper reports.

Abderrozak Benarabe, the leader of the Blågårdsgade gang in the Nørrebro district and commonly known as ‘Store A’, was accompanied to Syria last summer by journalist Nagieb Khaja, whose documentary about the trip was recently sold to public broadcaster DR2.

“The documentary is about [Abderrozak Benarabe], his life and the decisions he made,” Khaja told Berlingske. “One of the decisions he made was to travel to Syria, where he joined an Islamic resistance group.”

According to Khaja, the pair travelled to Syria last year August by flying to Turkey and crossing the border illegally. Khaja filmed Benarabe fighting in the Syrian town of Idlib together with the group Ahrar al-Sham which PET, the domestic intelligence agency, classifies as “militant Islamists”.

According to law professor Jørn Vestergaard, from the University of Copenhagen, Benarabe could risk prosecution under Danish anti-terror legislation.

“If he was active in a group he knew committed acts of terrorism then he has broken anti-terror laws,” Vestergaard told Berlingske

A PET spokesperson confirmed to Berlingske that Benarabe could face charges.

Benarabe is the former leader of the recently disbanded gang Blågårds Plads Gruppe and was charged with hiring two Polish hit men to kill five people in Denmark in 2006. He was acquitted of the charge in 2010 but was convicted of assault and blackmail.

Benarabe’s younger brother, known as ‘Lille A’, was also active in the gang and was at one time close to Brian Sandberg, a former leading member of the Hells Angels who last summer defected to rival group Bandidos.

Lille A appeared in a documentary recently to talk about the gang war that has erupted between biker and immigrant groups in Copenhagen. His presence in the documentary was criticised by some, including the police, who argued it glorified gang membership.

Recent reports that Danish gang members were travelling to fight in Syria have led far-right Dansk Folkeparti (DF) to urge the government to take action. They are now calling for Benarabe, a Moroccan citizen, to be charged with terrorism and deported.

“The prosecutor and the Justice Ministry should charge Store A with terrorism, and it should end up with him being deported,” Peter Skaarup, the DF legal spokesperson, told Berlingske. “It’s unacceptable that he has both participated in organised crime and committed terrorist acts while based in Denmark.”

According to PET around 45 Danes have so far participated in the fighting in Syria but it is not known the extent to which they are connected to gangs. Two have reportedly been killed.

Gilles de Kerchove, the EU counter-terrorism coordinator, recently told the BBC that around 500 Europeans have travelled to Syria to fight.