EnetEnglish.gr, 15:25 Tuesday 2 April 2013
Greek Canadian linked to Al Qaeda attack in Algeria
Xristos Katsiroubas was one of 30 militants who staged a bloody attack on gas refinery in January
A Greek Canadian man in his early 20s has been identified as one of the Al Qaeda militants killed while staging a bloody attack on an Algerian gas refinery in January.
According to CBC News, Xristos Katsiroubas (photo) and his high school friend Ali Medlej, were part of a group of 30 militants linked to Al Qaeda.
At least 39 foreign hostages along with an Algerian security guard were killed in the ensuing hostage crisis at the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria. A total of 29 militants were also killed, while 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners were freed. Three militants were captured.
Katsiroubas was from a Greek Orthodox middle-class family in London, Ontario. Sources say it is likely Katsiroubas and Medlej intentionally blew themselves up in the attack. One of them could be only identified by DNA testing.
Survivors described Katsiroubas as blond-haired and fluent in "North American English".
But CBC News has learned that as long ago as 2007, agents of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed some family and friends of the two, who were then teenagers.
Details emerging from former friends and associates suggest Katsiroubas’ story is one that is becoming frighteningly more common. He grew up in a home with a backyard swimming pool in a middle-class neighbourhood with rich ethnic diversity. He lived with his mother after his parents divorced, and by all accounts seemed normal.
Katsiroubas is understood to have had an older brother, and at least three large families of cousins.
One relative is quoted in a 2007 news article saying he travelled all the way across London to shop at his favourite Greek pastry shop.
Katsiroubas was friends with Medlej in high school. When Medlej graduated in 2007, Katsiroubas dropped out of school. There are some reports that he also converted to Islam.
The hostage crisis began on 16 January 2013, when al-Qaeda-linked terrorists affiliated with a brigade led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar took over 800 people hostage at the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria. One of Belmokhtar's senior lieutenants, Abdul al Nigeri, led the attack and was among the terrorists killed. After four days, the Algerian special forces raided the site, in an effort to free the hostages.
It was one of many attacks in the Maghreb carried out by Islamist groups since 2002.