FRANCE / BELGIUM

Taekwondo and cocktails: What we know about the 'baby-faced terrorist'

Photo de classe (2009-2010) : Bilal Hadfi en seconde année de secondaire en Belgique.
Photo de classe (2009-2010) : Bilal Hadfi en seconde année de secondaire en Belgique.

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France 24 has obtained several documents and conducted interviews that give a measure of insight into the life of Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up in Paris on November 13.

Bilal Hadfi, 20, was French, but lived in Belgium. He is one of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up near the Stade de France football stadium on Friday, killing one passerby.

We were able to obtain his class photo from 2009-2010, when he attended the Dutch-speaking middle school San Peter de Jette, near Brussels. The school’s vice-principal confirmed that Hadfi did indeed attend the school for a year, before switching to another school. Hadfi spoke Dutch in class, and, according to the vice-principal, was probably sent to the school because Dutch-speaking schools “are reputed to be better” than French-speaking ones.

According to a former friend who spoke to France 24, back then, Hadfi was a “very small” boy, who was friendly and “always said hi to everyone”. According to him, Hadfi’s father had died and he lived with his mother and brothers. He played lots of video games and was serious about taekwondo: “He had his red belt, and was trying to get his black belt”.

On his Facebook page, he was a teenager who liked rap and football

The citizen investigative journalism group @Bellingcat found the terrorist’s Facebook page. It was taken down from Facebook, but we were able to access it through online archives. (We have decided to publish only screen grabs here, in order to preserve the anonymity of his Facebook “friends”.) Our contact, who was also friends with him on Facebook, confirmed that the page, which is under the name “Billy Du Hood” (“Billy from the Hood”), was indeed Hadfi's. Hadfi’s last profile picture was posted in August.

His Facebook page paints the portrait of a teenager who tried to portray himself as a gangster, with no signs of religious extremism, or indeed, any religiosity at all. His profile pictures include stock photos of stacks of money and press photos of guns.

Last February, he posted a drawing of an old man smoking a joint. A Google image search for the original photo shows that a marijuana leaf was cropped out.

Here’s the original version:

In other photos, he poses with his little brother and flips the camera the bird. In this profile picture, he used a photo of graffiti that reads “F*** the police”.

The only photo where he poses with a weapon dates back to August 2014. He holds a rifle – possibly a toy one – at the edge of a swimming pool, in what appears to be a hotel. A few metres behind him, there’s a small child. In the comments, a friend mocks him; he doesn’t seem to take him seriously.

In this photo, taken in the same spot, Hadfi poses with his meal and what he describes as a “cocktail”.

His Facebook “friends” come from a variety of backgrounds, but most are young people living in and around Brussels. None of them are bearded men fighting in foreign wars. Among the girls, many pose for selfies wearing heavy makeup; one even poses in a swimsuit. In her profile picture, one of his Facebook “friends” has the slogan “Proud Lesbian” scrawled across her clavicles. Among the boys, several use photos of naked or half-naked women as their profile pictures. Religious extremism seems a world away. In fact, many of the profile pictures of his Facebook “friends” bear the colours of the French flag, which have become a symbol of online solidarity since the Paris attacks.

Hadfi’s listed interests are also pretty banal. He was a fan of the Real Madrid football club; he liked rap (Tupac), movies (“Fast and Furious”, the French film “La Haine”, about youth in Paris’ suburbs), and Japanese anime. His tastes in video games were also mainstream: he liked “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto”.

Article by France 24 journalists Julien Pain and Gaelle Faure.