Belgian national, 26-year-old defendant Michael Delefortrie, arrives for the 4th day of the trial of radical Islamic group "Sharia4Belgium" at the courthouse of Antwerp on October 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO / BELGA PHOTO / LUC CLAESSEN
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As chairman of the Annasr mosque, Mimoun Aquichouh personally knows a number of young men who left the small Belgian city of Vilvoorde to wage jihad in Syria. They worshipped at his mosque on a quiet street in the former industrial city just north of the capital Brussels as they fought their own personal struggles before finding the path of jihad, much to Aquichouh's dismay.Their stories offer a glimpse into the minds of some of the estimated 325 young Muslims from Belgium and around 3,000 from across the European Union who have joined the Islamist militant cause in Syria and Iraq.Vilvoorde Mayor Hans Bonte, who also knows some young Muslims who became jihadists, said the process of radicalizing young men and even young women can take only a few months.Bonte, who was invited to the United States last month to share his views on radicalization, said community leaders must act fast to prevent jihadist recruiters from isolating and preying on vulnerable young people.
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