After uncovering the Islamic State cell that planned and executed the Paris attacks, Belgian authorities have increased the manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of being one of the gunmen in Paris and whose brother blew himself up in a suicide operation there. Brussels, the location of NATO and EU headquarters, is now a city under military lockdown. Subways and schools remained closed on Monday, as the threat of a “Paris-style attack” keeps residents and police on edge.
Hiding in plain sight within the large Muslim community centered in the Molenbeek neighborhood, the IS cell that executed the Paris atrocity may have prepared for another wave targeting Brussels, according to Belgian authorities.
In response, they have urged the closing of popular bars and clubs, while hotels locked their doors, as a large number of travelers cancelled their stays.
The military personnel and armored personnel carriers now patrolling the streets evoke images of a city under occupation, and although 16 arrests have been made in connection with the attacks, Abdeslam and his accomplices remain at large.
As previously noted, IS has increased its operational capabilities beyond the borders of its self-declared caliphate and affiliated “provinces.” Whereas, historically terrorist organizations executed operations in order to draw media attention for the announcement of clear political objectives, IS transcends traditional western concepts of terrorism. Instead, it is a global jihadist organization, seeking to goad Western powers into an apocalyptic conflict.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, organizations such as Hezbollah held hostages for years and carried out operations at the behest of Iran, a clear case of state-sponsored terrorism. Nowadays, a self-declared religious state, with no international recognition and a self-sufficient financial structure, is able to hold entire cities hostage; cities that serve as headquarters for international military and political bodies are now at the mercy of jihadists who reject the Western concept of the nation-state.
In a propaganda masterstroke, the Islamic State has succeeded in achieving one of its key goals: “striking fear in the heart of the enemy.”