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- December 19, 2005
- Vol. 64
- No. 25
From Western Wife to Suicide Bomber
What Drove a Belgian Woman to a Deadly Mission in Iraq?
Degauque's bloody hit marked the first time that a female Westerner had carried out such an attack. Her parents—her father is a retired crane operator, her mother a secretary—blamed her husband, Goris, who was reported killed by U.S. forces in a separate incident, for "brainwashing" her. Growing up in the city of Charleroi, Muriel began to experiment with drugs and run away from home in her teens. "She was weak and easily influenced," says Dorange. In 2002, after a series of relationships with other Muslim men, she married Goris and converted to Islam. She took to wearing a chador, then a veil and finally a burka, which hid everything but her eyes. When she and Goris visited her parents, he insisted that the men and women eat separately and that no alcohol be served. "The last time we saw them, we said we were tired of them trying to indoctrinate us," said Liliane.
It was unclear how or when Muriel made the turn to terror. But after her death, Belgian authorities arrested five people on suspicion of recruiting and training young people to become suicide bombers—and they cautioned that there may be more women waiting to launch similar attacks. Which means that other European families may soon share the Degauques' grief. Said her father, Jean: "Despite everything, she was our daughter."
April 25, 2015
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