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No Belgians in IS execution video: officials

Authorities in Belgium said Wednesday they had ruled out the presence of any Belgian nationals in a video by the Islamic State group that shows the beheadings of Syrian military personnel.

Belgian officials had been analysing the video after a newspaper reported that one of the men featured in the video looked like Abdelmajid Gharmaoui, who is currently on trial in his absence in Belgium for membership of a jihadist group.

“In our opinion, after checking, there is no Belgian national in this video,” federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van der Sijpt said.

Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws had published an image of an unmasked man with a partial beard and long curly hair taken from the IS video, alongside a photo of a similar-looking man identified as Gharmaoui that the paper said was taken in Syria in July 2013.

It also quoted an unnamed security official saying they were “almost sure” it was the same man.

But the mayor of the Brussels suburb of Vilvorde, where Gharmaoui lived before going to Syria in 2012, had said the report was “completely wrong”.

Gharmaoui is being tried in absentia in the northern Belgian port city of Antwerp with 45 other alleged members of the Islamist group Sharia4Belgium, which is accused of being one of the main sources of Belgian jihadists.

Several European countries are investigating whether their nationals feature in the video, which shows the simultaneous beheadings of 18 Syrian prisoners and, separately, of kidnapped US aid worker Peter Kassig.