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Belgian woman denies inciting Afghanistan ‘jihad’

A Belgian woman serving an eight-year prison term for leading an Al-Qaeda-linked terror group insisted on Tuesday that she never incited Muslims to join the fight in Afghanistan.

Malika El Aroud, the widow of one of the killers of anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, was jailed in May for leading a group which recruited youngsters in Belgium and France to wage “jihad” in Afghanistan.

She appealed her conviction and in her new trial on Tuesday she denied using a website to encourage Muslims to join the battle against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

“It is true that when I wrote comments on articles that appeared in the press regarding Afghanistan, I used very strong words such as ‘go for it, we must kill them, we must go’,” Aroud told the court.

Aroud, who is of Moroccan origin, said the website was at first an association that she created with her second husband, Moez Garsallaoui, to help war detainees and their families.

Garsallaoui was also sentenced to eight years in May but is on the run.

Aroud’s previous husband was one of the men who killed the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, an assassination that was carried out two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Aroud told the court she did not know the men who joined her second husband, Garsallaoui, in training camps at the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

She also denied funding trips to Afghanistan for Islamic militants in Belgium.

“I did not know these people,” she said.

Asked by chief judge Luc Maes why she was particularly interested in the war in Afghanistan, she replied: “Quite simply, because I am human.”

“The word ‘jihad’ means ‘to resist oppression.’ You and me, we apply this as soon as we are threatened,” she said.