Nicolas Bons, a young convert to Islam from a middle class French background, has died fighting in Syria barely four months after his half-brother met the same fate. Their mother was informed by text message that her son had been “martyred” on Dec. 22 in a suicide truck bombing in Homs.
Daily Star Nicolas’ half-brother Jean-Daniel, 22, died in fighting in August. He was introduced to radical Islam by Nicolas, who had himself announced his conversion to his parents in 2009. He soon became a regular visitor to a mosque in his hometown of Toulouse and an assiduous reader of the Quran. When Jean-Daniel, who until then had lived with his father in French Guiana, came to study in Toulouse in 2011, he too soon converted under Nicolas’ influence.
In March of last year the pair set off for Syria, having told their parents they were headed to the beach in Thailand. A month later, they sent a letter revealing their true destination and in July Nicolas appeared, Kalashnikov and Quran in hand, in a propaganda video in which he calls on French President Francois Hollande to convert to Islam.
The two men’s father has admitted he has no idea how Nicolas became radicalized. Toulouse was home to the radical Islamist Mohammad Merah, who killed seven people in and around the city in 2012. However, local imams dismiss suggestions that Nicolas developed his fascination with jihad at the mosque, suggesting that the Internet was a more likely source of his unlikely transformation.
Bons said his ex-wife Dominique had received a text message Thursday that said: “Your son Nicolas carried out a truck bombing at an enemy village in the Homs region. May God accept him as a martyr.” “I never thought that he would descend to this level in this religion. It’s appalling,” he said. “All these people who condition others to become human bombs are killers,” Bons added.
French intelligence sources say that about 220 French jihadists – around a fifth of them converts – are fighting in Syria. At least 18 had been killed prior to the death of Nicolas Bons.
Dominique Bons, Nicolas’ mother, told France’s Liberation newspaper that for the nine months that her son had fought President Bashar Assad’s forces, she had managed on average to speak to him once a week. “He seemed to be alright … He spoke of his ‘Muslim brothers’ who were very good with him, despite the language barrier,” she said. “He said he was waiting to go to paradise,” his mother said.