"Already 12 Belgian dead in Syria"

The Flemish weekly Knack claims that up to 12 Belgian youngsters may have been killed in Syria. The weekly bases its figure on information from members of Belgium's Muslim community.

Knack journalist Chris De Stoop spoke with rebels on the Turkish-Syrian border, rebels based in Brussels and representatives of the Muslim community in Belgium. Most of the victims are believed to be Belgians of Moroccan extraction.

Several hundred Belgian youngsters are believed to be in Syria. Chris De Stoop told VRT News that a Belgian imam has knowledge of at least 100.

Mr De Stoop believes that only a small number of youngsters are being recruited by extremist Muslim organisations: "Most head off at their own initiative together with some friends. They meet up with a local contact that helps them further."

Religious motives do not seem to play an important role: "The vast majority leaves because they are shocked by the horrors that they see on YouTube or on TV on a daily basis. Some are motivated by friendship, solidarity or thirst for adventure."

Many of the youngsters are particularly young: "Representatives of the Muslim community put the ages of the youngest at barely 15 or 16."