Losing your brother to ISIS

CNN Exclusive: Losing my brother to ISIS
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Story highlights

  • Mohamed Amin Chaib and his family disavow the actions of Hicham Chaib, a brutal executioner for ISIS
  • Mohamed Amin says his parents taught them a loving, warm version of Islam
  • He doesn't know why Hicham went astray, but says his family must speak out against one of their own

Antwerp, Belgium (CNN)Mohamed Amin Chaib wouldn't meet with us in his home or even his neighborhood. The reason was simple: The topic of conversation was his brother, and he didn't want anyone to see a television crew around.

That's because Mohamed Amin's brother is a brutal and prolific ISIS executioner. In an organization that revels in barbarity, the hands of Hicham Chaib are more openly soaked in blood than most.
    But Hicham's latest ISIS video -- an on-camera murder -- was the last straw for his family, coming days after the horrific terror attacks in Brussels that claimed more than 30 innocent lives at last estimate and left 300 more wounded.
    In the video, Chaib -- Belgian-born of Moroccan descent -- praises the Brussels attacks and promises more to come. Then he shoots an unknown prisoner in the back of the head.
    Mohamed Amin says it was time to speak out about his family's anger and sadness. He doesn't know why his brother praised attacks that were carried out in his home country, Belgium. His mother or even his sister could have been at the airport or metro station when the bombs went off, he noted.
    Mohamed Amin and his family consider themselves Belgian, despite their Moroccan heritage. Hicham has dishonored them, they say. But Hicham today is not the boy with which Mohamed Amin grew up.
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    "He was someone who couldn't hurt a fly and went through life laughing," he tells us in a hotel room far from his home and neighborhood. "There's just disbelief -- still the family doesn't believe this could happen."
    Mohammed Amin, 22, is sickened by videos he cannot yet bring himself to watch. He can't bear to witness the actions of a man he no longer recognizes.
    "What I remember is an older brother who was always there, that's what I remember, if I had trouble then he was there for me," he says.

    A normal childhood

    Hicham Chaib grew up in a quiet, predominantly Muslim suburb of Antwerp.
    It was by all accounts a normal childhood in a moderate Muslim family of 13. That's until, his family says, he met people -- radicals -- who lured him toward a "twisted" interpretation of Islam completely foreign to the one he grew up following. A version his brother calls "cut and paste" Islam.
    "That's an Islam that they fill in according to their own interpretations, colored by their own frustrations," he says. "My father and mother have given us a warm kind of Islam, one that is peaceful and contributes to society, you know, working, studying, respect for all."
    Mohammed Amin hasn't seen his brother since Hicham left for Syria in 2013 after the arrest of an extremist associate. It was then Hicham began what has become a journey of horror, appearing in numerous ISIS propaganda videos and coldly killing in terrible ways.
    Since his latest grotesque video, the family who disowns his actions has received threats to their own safety.
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    "We have had threats, hate messages -- it has had a major influence on our family, not just emotionally but also out of fear. Our parents are very fearful that something might happen with their sons or daughters."
    The family's angst doesn't end with Hicham. Another brother, Anwar, faces charges after authorities allege he, too, tried to head to Syria, although his lawyer says Anwar is not Hicham.
    "My client has taken notice of the video images in which his brother is seen, and he wants to absolutely distance himself from it," says attorney Mattias Leys. "He rejects the acts and the words of his brother and is shocked by what recently happened in our country."

    Family: We abhor every form or terror and violence

    The family as a whole has now issued a public statement that, in part, reads:
    "We as a family want to distance ourselves from Hicham, his deeds, ideologies and words.
    "Our sympathies and support go to the victims and relatives of the attacks committed in Brussels and Paris. We abhor every form of terror and violence wherever in the world. These acts are opposed to the teaching of Islam.
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    "We don't understand the motives of his radicalisation... the shocking reality today is we don't know our son and brother."
    Heartbreaking words for a family to write about one of their own, but Mohamed Amin says they are words that need to be said.
    He isn't sure if he'll see his brother again, but if his brother sees this interview, he says he has a message from a family paying for the sins of a son:
    "Hisham: Think hard because you have a family here," Mohamed says to our camera. "Your own mother thinks about you every night and cries always about you. Your father is old, he also always loves you... think about the consequences for your family because they are enormous."