• France's news in English

Second French brother killed in Syria jihad

AFP/The Local · 7 Jan 2014, 10:01

Published: 07 Jan 2014 10:01 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Nicolas Bons, a young convert to Islam from a comfortable middle class French background, has died fighting in Syria barely four months after his half-brother met the same fate, their father said on Monday.

In a story that has provoked bewilderment, the mother of 30-year-old Nicolas was informed by text message from the frontline that her son had been "martyred" on December 22 in a suicide truck bombing in the Syrian province of Homs, the father, Gerard Bons, told AFP by phone from his home in French Guiana.

Nicolas's half-brother Jean-Daniel had died in fighting at the start of August. He was 22 and had been introduced to radical Islam by Nicolas, who had himself announced his conversion to his parents in 2009.

Nicolas's personal journey mirrors that of many of the increasing number of converts to Islam who have signed up for jihad, or holy war.

Having struggled at school, Nicolas lost his way in his early 20s, developing a cannabis habit and picking up a conviction for petty dealing.

According to his family, all that stopped almost overnight when he found Islam. He soon became a regular visitor to a mosque in his home town of Toulouse and an assiduous reader of the Koran.

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's 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 Koran in hand, in an Islamist propoganda video in which he calls on French President Francois Hollande to
convert to Islam.

Jean-Daniel also features in the video but only looks on expressionless as his brother talks.

The two men's father has admitted he has no idea how Nicolas became radicalised.

Toulouse was home to the radical Islamist Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people in and around the city in 2012. But local clerics have dismissed suggestions it was at the mosque that Nicolas developed his fascination with jihad, suggesting the Internet was a more likely source of his unlikely transformation.

Bons said his former wife Dominique had received a text message on Thursday. It said: "Your son Nicolas carried out a truck bombing at an enemy village in the Homs region. May God accept him as a martyr."

Bons told AFP that he had tried to contact Nicolas several times to wish him well on his birthday on December 23.

"I always had problems getting through," he said. "I told myself, it's the festive season and maybe the call is not getting through because of heavy traffic. But it wasn't that."

"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." 

According to French intelligence sources, about 220 French jihadists - around a fifth of them converts - are fighting in Syria. Scores more are believed to be in transit or trying to go there and at least 18 had been killed prior to the death of Nicolas Bons.

Story continues below…

Dominique Bons, Nicolas' mother, told France's Liberation newspaper that after receiving the text message, she called the Syrian number on her cellphone and a man speaking French confirmed his death.

"He added that he was in paradise under Allah's protection," she said.

Dominique Bons said that for the nine months that her son fought President Bashar al-Assad's forces, she 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 wanted to go right to the end," she said, adding that Nicolas believed his half-brother, who died on August 11, was in paradise and keeping well.

"He said he was waiting to go to paradise," his mother said.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available