Khalid Ben Larbi lived a hedonistic lifestyle similar to other European youths and rarely went to the mosque in Molenbeek, the mainly Muslim Moroccan immigrant area where he and three of the suspected Paris attackers grew up in Brussels.
It was the same inner-city disenchantment that leads other youths to drugs and crime, not the preachings of a radical imam, that neighbors, local social workers and imams say changed Ben Larbi from raucous adolescent to Islamic State foot soldier, drawn by the promise of adventure and glory.
The families in Molenbeek and other areas are often shocked to discover their children have been recruited by a mix of back street preachers, social media and a growing network of hometown jihadists spreading tales of derring-do in Syria.
Ben Larbi was a “regular guy”, liked the movies, was comfortably off. Then one day last year, he disappeared to fight in Syria before returning to Belgium in January when the 23-year-old was killed in a police raid, Kalashnikov in hand.