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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 12:29 GMT
Journey of Belgian female 'bomber'
Undated file photograph of Muriel Degauque
Degauque may have been traumatised by a family tragedy
Muriel Degauque, who is believed to have died in Baghdad as an Islamic suicide bomber at the age of 38, grew up near the Belgian factory town of Charleroi.

A neighbour remembers her as an "absolutely normal" little girl who liked to go for sled rides when it snowed.

The woman whose passport was reportedly found at the scene of the failed suicide attack converted to Islam when she was in her 30s.

She became "more Muslim than Muslim" after meeting her second husband and grew increasingly estranged from her family, her mother Liliane Degauque told Belgian and French media.

Her husband Issam Goris, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, is believed to have been shot dead in Iraq by US troops as he tried to launch a suicide bomb attack himself.

Hearing television reports of a Belgian woman who had blown herself up in Iraq on 9 November, Liliane straightaway thought it was her daughter, she recalled afterwards.

She had been unable to contact her by telephone for three weeks.

Muriel and her husband had reportedly travelled to Turkey from where they entered Iraq.

No TV, no beer

Muriel grew up Monceau-sur-Sambre, near Charleroi, the daughter of factory worker Jean and medical secretary Liliane.

La Derniere Heure front page
Media branded Muriel Degauque as the "Belgian kamikaze"

Before marrying, she had worked at a bakery and a cafe but she has also been described by media as a runaway who dabbled in drugs.

She donned the veil of Islam when she met her first husband, whom she later divorced. But it was after her second marriage that her new religion began to be really felt, according to Liliane.

She would wear a head-to-toe chador and insist on eating separately from her own father when at home, where "there could be no question of turning on the TV or opening a beer", her parents said.

When her mother spent time in hospital, she never visited her and later said she had had no "time for that".

Early trauma

A neighbour told Belgium's Le Soir newspaper that the death of Muriel's brother Jean-Paul in a road accident when she was still a teenager had marked her life.

"Muriel would tell me that it was she who should have died instead of her brother. Everyone had loved him," Andrea Dorane said.

A Dutch-based terrorism expert who spoke to AP news agency said converts to Islam like Muriel Degauque were often easy prey for extremists because of their search for a new identity.

"They are looking for... a new sense to their life," said Edwin Bakker.

According to Belgian federal police director Glenn Audenaert, it was the first time a Belgian woman - if not a Western woman - had been "converted up to the point of becoming a jihad fighter".

Liliane Degauque said she had not expected her daughter to die as she had and was "angry at those who manipulated her".

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