Antwerp Terror Arrests Underscore Growing Threat to Europe and America

Belgium mapby Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
June 1, 2016

Last Wednesday, just two years and a day after the deadly terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, and barely more than two months after the twin attacks on the Brussels airport and metro, Belgian police arrested a group of Muslim youth planning yet another attack, this time in Antwerp. Aiming “to kill as many kufar,” or non-Muslims, as possible, the group is believed to have been planning to bomb Antwerp’s Central Station. The group also is believed to have made previous plans to assassinate right-wing politician Filip Dewinter, the leader of the Vlaams Belang party. Those plans were put on hold, however, in favor of a larger-scale attack.

The suspects were members of a group of radicalized Muslim teens believed to have kept contact with Antwerp native Hicham Chaib, who is now a high-ranking leader of the Islamic State. It was Chaib who informed the public that the March 22 attacks on Belgium’s Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station “were just a taste of what’s to come.” And it is Chaib, the former second-in-command of Shariah4Belgium who left Antwerp for Syria in 2012, who now actively recruits other Antwerp-based youth to join ISIS or to execute terrorist attacks in their homeland.

The four arrests followed a series of raids by Antwerp police into the homes of several suspects in the Borgerhout district. Two suspects have been released, but other members of the group, some arrested previously, remain in custody. All suspects are said to be between the ages of 16 and 19, confirming earlier Dutch reports that European Muslims under the age of 20 are increasingly becoming involved in Islamic State activities and jihadist plots.

According to some accounts, the Antwerp group is comprised of nine youths, at least five of whom are minors. At least two members tried to join the Islamic State in Raqqa in March, but were stopped by officials en route and sent back to Belgium.

With security and counter-terror investigations heightened in Brussels after the March 22 attacks there, it is unsurprising that jihadists might be moving their activities and focus to nearby Antwerp. The city has a long history of Muslim unrest, with riots as early as 2002 and the founding, by Hizballah-linked Lebanese immigrant Dyab Abou Jahjah, of the Arab European League (AEL) in 2000. An organization with pan-Arab aspirations, the AEL aimed to create what Jahjah called a “sharocracy” – a kind of combination of democracy and sharia – that would eventually become European law.

More recently, Antwerp native Fouad Belkacem founded the notorious Sharia4Belgium, alleged to have organized most of the recruiting for ISIS in Belgium, with some outreach to neighboring countries such as France and The Netherlands. And, of the estimated 500 Belgian Muslims who have joined terrorist groups in Syria, more than 100 come from Antwerp.

But the indication of heightened new activity in Antwerp also suggests possible changes in strategy for Europe-based jihadists and recruiters. While French-speaking Brussels maintains close ties to France (several of the terrorists involved in the two attacks in Paris last year were based or were born in Brussels), Flemish-speaking Antwerp holds a stronger relationship to The Nethrlands. Antwerp is also a mere 30 minutes from Rotterdam by high-speed train, offering easy access to Europe’s largest and busiest port. The Rotterdam Port is also the launching point for the vast majority of European exports to America, Europe’s largest external trading partner.

This matters. According to the National Institute of Justice, “Few would dispute that, if terrorists used a cargo container to conceal a weapon of mass destruction and detonated it on arrival at a U.S. port, the impact on global trade and the world economy could be immediate and devastating.” And the New York Times further observed, “The cargo containers arriving on ships from foreign ports offer terrorists a Trojan horse for a devastating attack on the United States. As the Harvard political scientist Graham T. Allison has put it, a nuclear attack is ‘far more likely to arrive in a cargo container than on the tip of a missile.'”

The good news, however, is that The Netherlands’ intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies are well-recognized for their research, acuity, and effectiveness. And Rotterdam takes an especially hard line on Islamic extremism: its Essalam Mosque, Holland’s largest, served as the site for anti-extremist protests. Last year, the mosquedismissed all foreign Arabs from its board of directors. And following the January 2015 attacks in Paris, Ahmed Aboutaleb, Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor, famously invited any Dutch Muslim wishing to join the jihad in Syria to make the trip and never try to return. More, his fierce response to youth who dislike Dutch values was even more direct: he told them to “f*** off.”

Perhaps, then, even as these latest arrests demonstrate just how much Europe’s radical Muslim problem threatens to become America’s radical Muslim problem, we should consider making some of Europe’s more radical solutions America’s solutions, too.

Abigail R. Esman is an award-winning freelance writer based in New York and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with more than 20 years of experience writing for national and international magazines including Salon.com, Vogue, Esquire (Holland), Town & Country, Art & Auction (where she is a contributing editor), The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Artnews and others.

Phone Seminar with Steve Emerson: “After Brussels Terror Attack: Is the U.S. Next?”

Published on Apr 27, 2016 by emetonline

On March 22, 2016 Belgium was struck by three simultaneous terror attacks at its airport and subway system, killing 31 people and injuring more than 180. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. Saleh Abdeslam, one of the prime suspects of November’s horrific attacks in Paris, was arrested in Molenbeek, an inner-city suburb of Belgium, and the district where at least three of the Paris attackers grew up. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Tuesday, “What we feared has happened. We were hit by blind attacks.” Abdeslam is alleged to have taken part in November’s terror attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. In December, Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people; the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11.

What lessons should the United States learn from the attack in Brussels? What is the current terrorist threat to our homeland, and what steps need to be taken to combat the rise of radical Islam in the US? Please join us for a phone seminar with terrorism expert Steve Emerson as he explores these critical issues.

How Radicalization Was Allowed to Fester in Belgium

belgiumby Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
April 19, 2016

These are the numbers, the hard facts: Twenty months. Three terrorist attacks. One hundred seventy dead. And almost all the killers grew up in or at one time lived in Belgium.

Squeezed into a corner bounded by France, Germany and the Netherlands, tiny Belgium has produced more jihadists than any other Western country (relative to its population) since 9/11. The most recent attacks, at the Brussels Maalbeek metro station and Zaventem Airport on March 22, killed at least 32 people and wounded dozens more. On Nov. 13, gunmen from the Brussels district of Molenbeek killed 130 men and women in Paris at a soccer stadium, a restaurant, and concert hall. And in May 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, a returnee from Syria, shot and killed four people at the entrance to Brussels’ Jewish Museum. Since then, the media has been filled with reports on Belgium as a “new hotbed of terrorism,” while politicians have looked at one another blankly, asking “why?”

But the other hard fact is that there is nothing especially new about any of this. Belgium has been a center for Islamic terrorism for more than 20 years, most notably in the aftermath of a series of 1995 and 1998 bombings in France. Those attacks, which targeted, among others, the Paris Metro and the Arc de Triomphe, were committed by the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, an Algerian militant group affiliated with al-Qaida, many of whose members lived in Belgium.

Indeed, most of the earlier Islamist terror attacks in Belgium and France were committed by Algerian GIA members, including Farid Melouk, who plotted, among other targets, to bomb the 1998 Paris World Cup. Sentenced to nine years in 1998 for his involvement in terrorism, Melouk is believed to have known and influenced Chérif Kouachi, one of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last January.

Only later, with the growth of al-Qaida after 9/11, did recruiters turn more to Moroccan immigrants like Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the mastermind of the Nov. 13 strikes, andKhalid Zerkani, believed to have served as a mentor to the current generation of Belgian jihadists.

But not all these 1990s jihadists were strictly GIA: in the aftermath of the 1995 Paris attacks, for instance, during a raid on the home of one Belgian GIA member, policediscovered among the weapons a “training manual,” dedicated to Osama bin Laden. There have also been reports of computer disks containing al-Qaida manuals found in Belgium around this time, but they remain unconfirmed.

But most notable is a report that Belgium repeatedly did little to combat the threat. Rather, according to journalist Paul Belien, Belgian authorities “made a deal with the GIA terrorists, agreeing to turn a blind eye to conspiracies hatched on Belgian soil in exchange for immunity from attack.”

If the deal was real, it did nothing to protect Belgian Muslims from radicalization. Those include converts like Muriel Degauque, who in 2005 earned the dubious distinction of being Belgium’s first female suicide bomber when she blew herself up in Baghdad, killing five.

Moreover, the radicalization of Belgian Muslims has become nearly a local institution, through national political groups like Sharia4Belgium and, previously, the Arab European League (AEL). Founded In 2000 by Lebanese immigrant Dyab Abou Jahjah, the AEL spread briefly beyond Belgium to France and the Netherlands before eventually petering out around 2006. But in its short life, it stirred pro-Islamist sentiment among many Belgian Muslim youth, helping to pave the way for Sharia4Belgium, and its recruiting of warriors for ISIS.

Alongside both of these movements has been the one-man operation of Khalid Zerkani, who is known to his followers as “The Santa Claus of jihad,” the New York Times reports. Zerkani, Belgian federal prosecutor Bernard Michel told the Times, “has perverted an entire generation of youngsters,” including various Molenbeek residents who were involved in the Zaventem killings, and Abdelhamid Abbaaoud, the Paris attack leader. Other Zerkani disciples have joined the Islamic State in Syria. On April 14, Zerkani, who was arrested in 2014, was sentenced to 15 years in Belgian prison for jihad recruiting. But – despite ongoing arrests in Molenbeek and other regions throughout Belgium – his influence, like that of Sharia4Belgium and the relics of Belgium’s terrorist past, continues to walk free on Europe’s streets.

Timeline of Jihadist Events in Belgium

1990s – Armed Islamic Group (GIA), an Algerian terrorist group, forms cells in Belgium and France.

1995

July 25 – GIA sets off bombs at the Saint-Michel station of Paris RER, killing eight and wounding 80

August 17 – bombs set by GIA at the Arc de Triomphe wound 17

August 26 – GIA bomb found on railroad tracks near Lyon

September 3– car bomb at Lyon Jewish school wounds 14

October 6– explosion in Paris Metro wounds 13

October 17– gas bottle explodes between Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame stations of Paris metro, wounding 29

1998

March 6 – Belgian officials storm a Brussels residence, arresting Farid Melouk, suspected leader of Belgian GIA and organizer of Paris attacks.

Six other GIA operatives are also arrested, all linked to various Paris bombings.

March 22 – Belgian police uncover GIA plot to bomb the World Cup soccer event in France that June. During a raid in Brussels, police uncover explosives, detonators, Kalashnikovs, and thousands of dollars in cash. Again, Farid Melouk is believed to be associated.

May 26 – Police raid homes in Brussels and Charleroi based on evidence found in a GIA safe house in Brussels earlier. Ten people are detained.

1999

May 15 – Farid Melouk sentenced to nine years in Brussels court.

2000

February – Dyab Abou Jahjah establishes the Arab-European League in Antwerp, declaring that “assimilation is cultural rape,” and calling for Islamic schools, Arab-language education, and recognition of Islamic holidays. His goal is to create what he calls a “sharocracy” – a sharia-based democracy.

2001

September 11 – Al-Qaida hijackers plow commercial jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; a fourth jet, believed to be headed for the White House, is downed by passengers who overtake control. About 3,000 people are killed. The event marks a turning point for Muslim extremism and the rise of Muslim terrorism throughout the West.

September 13 – Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian, is arrested in Belgium and charged with plans to bomb a US-NATO military base.

September 30 – Sixteen additional suspects are also arrested in what prosecutors call a “spider’s web of radicals.”

2003

October 1 – Belgian courts convict 18 accused terrorists with suspected ties to al-Qaida, including Trabelsi, who receives a 10-year sentence.

2005

November 9 – Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert, blows herself up in Baghdad near a group of policemen, killing five.

2009

December – After uncovering believable plans for an attack in Belgium, Antwerp police arrest 10 men, charging them with membership in a terrorist organization. Most members of the alleged terror cell are believed to live in Antwerp. Some are Dutch nationals.

2010

March – Fouad Belkacem establishes Sharia4Belgium.

November – Belgian officials arrest 10 members of a local terrorist cell suspected of planning attacks locally. Counterterrorism officials admit they are facing growing radicalization among the country’s Muslim youth, in part through the work of Sharia4Belgium, which seeks to transform Belgium into an Islamic state.

2012

September 15 – 230 radicalized Muslim members of Sharia4Belgium are arrested during anti-American riots in protest against the film “Innocence of Muslims.” In 2015, officials would discover that 70 of those arrested had joined the jihad in Syria. “The list [of those arrested then] reads today like a passenger list for the Syria-Express,” one investigator told Dutch TV program Een Vandaag.

2013

October 3 – Nizar Trabelsi, having served out his term in the 2001 bombing plot , is extradited to the United States. He is charged “with conspiracy to kill U.S Nationals outside of the United States; conspiracy and attempt to use weapons of mass destruction” and providing material support to terrorists.

2015

January 7-9 – In Paris, a rash of terrorist attacks take the lives of 17 people, including most of the staff of controversial satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four Jews at a kosher market outside the city. Cherif Kouachi, responsible for the Charlie Hebdokillings, had had earlier contact with Farid Melouk. The attackers all claim to be sworn to the Islamic State.

November 13 – Further terrorist attacks in Paris – at the Stade de France stadium, Bataclan concert hall, and several restaurants – kill 130 people and injure more than 350. Most of the perpetrators come from (or have lived in) the Molenbeek region of Brussels, including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud is also suspected of having been radicalized by Zerkani. ISIS claims responsibility.

November 14-early 2016 – ongoing arrests and investigations in Molenbeek lead to several additional arrests.

2016

March 15 – Police sweep down on a residence in Vorst, a section of Brussels, arresting four suspects believed to be planning an attack. A fifth, Algerian Mohamed Melkaid, is shot and killed while firing his Kalashnikov at the police. An ISIS flag is found at the scene.

March 18 – Saleh Abdeslam, the sole surviving member of the terrorist team that attacked Paris in November, is arrested in Molenbeek following a shootout. Evidence found in the house in Vorst helped lead them to Abdeslam, who had been in hiding for 120 days, mostly in plain sight in Molenbeek.

His arrest leads to riots among Muslim youth in the district.

March 22 – Coordinated attacks at Brussels-Zaventem airport and the Brussels Maarbeek metro stop kill 32. Two of the suicide bombers, brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, had been involved in planning the November Paris attacks; a third, Najim Laachraoui, is suspected as having made the bombs for both Paris and Brussels attacks. Laachraoui is also suspected of having had connections with Melkaid.

March 23-ongoing – Belgian and French police and counterterrorism forces continue to arrest terrorist suspects connected to either the Paris or Brussels attacks, all of them linked with Belgium-based terror cells. One suspect, Osama Krayem (aka Naim Hamed), a Swedish national, admits having backed out of plans to bomb a second metro station, and agrees to cooperate with Brussels police.

April 14 – Kahlid Zerkani receives the maximum 15-year sentence in Brussels courts. The sentence, delivered on appeal, is an increase over the previous sentence of 12 years.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Europe: Suicide by Jihad

Gatestone Institute, by Guy Millière, April 16, 2016

  • In the last two decades, Belgium has become the hub of jihad in Europe. The district of Molenbeek in Brussels is now a foreign Islamist territory in the heart of Belgium. It is not, however, a lawless zone: sharia law has effectively replaced Belgian law.
  • One of the organizers of the Paris bombings, Salah Abdeslam, was able to live peacefully in Molenbeek for four months until police decided to arrest him. Belgian police knew exactly where he was, but did nothing until French authorities asked them to. After his arrest, he was treated as a petty criminal. Police did not ask him anything about the jihadist networks with which he worked. Officers who interrogated him were ordered to be gentle. The people who hid him were not indicted.
  • Europe’s leaders disseminated the idea that the West was guilty of oppressing Muslims. They therefore sowed the seeds of anti-Western resentment among Muslims in Europe.
  • Hoping to please followers of radical Islam and show them Europe could understand their “grievances,” they placed pressure on Israel. When Europeans were attacked, they did not understand why. They had done their best to please the Muslims. They had not even harassed the jihadists.

The March 22 jihadist attacks in Brussels were predictable. What is surprising is that they did not take place sooner. What is also surprising is that more people were not killed. It seems that the authors of the attacks had larger projects in mind; they wanted to attack a nuclear power plant. Others may succeed in doing just that.

In the last two decades, Belgium has become the hub of jihad in Europe. The district of Molenbeek in Brussels is now a foreign Islamist territory in the heart of Belgium. It is not, however, a lawless zone: sharia law has effectively replaced Belgian law. Almost all the women wear veils or burqas; those who do not take risks. Drug trafficking and radical mosques are everyplace. The police stay outside and intervene only in cases of extreme emergency, using military-like commando operations. Other areas of Belgium, such as Shaerbeek and Anderlecht have the same status as Molenbeek.

The Belgian authorities have allowed the situation to deteriorate. The situation in the country now is virtually equivalent to a surrender.

They seemed to hope that willful blindness and accepting the unacceptable would permit the country to be spared. It did not.

The attack on Belgium’s Jewish Museum on May 24, 2014 should have served as a warning. It did not. That “only” Jews were the target led the Belgian government to underestimate the threat. The jihadi who wanted to kill passengers on train from Amsterdam to Paris, on August 21, 2015,prepared his attack in Brussels. That three American heroes neutralized him before he could start shooting again led the Belgian government to think the danger was not large.

The jihadis who struck Paris on November 13, 2015 had also organized their attacks from Molenbeek, but the blood was not spilled in Belgium. Belgian authorities perhaps assumed that Belgium would be spared. They spoke of “imminent danger” for a day or so, but never increased security.

One of the organizers of the Paris bombings, Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted terrorist criminal, was able to live peacefully in Molenbeek for four months until police decided to arrest him. Belgian police knew exactly where he was, but did nothing until French authorities asked them to. After his arrest, he was treated as a petty criminal, not a jihadi terrorist. Police did not ask him anything concerning the jihadist networks with which he worked. Because he was hurt during police operations, officers who interrogated him were ordered to be gentle. The people who agreed to hide him for so long were not considered suspects and were not indicted.

The Brussels jihadist attacks took place two days later.

Despite the worst attacks on Belgium soil since World War II, Belgian authorities do not seem ready to change their behavior.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud (left), one of the planners of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, was — like many terrorists in Europe — from Molenbeek, Belgium. Philippe Moureaux (right) was mayor of Molenbeek for 20 years, thanks to his alliance with radical Islamists.

After the attacks, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel denounced “violent and cowardly acts” and stressed his “determination,” without saying what he intended to do. He did not speak of the necessity of changing the Belgian laws to make them more effective. He did not mention any enemy. He never used words such as “jihad” or “radical Islam.”

He behaved and talked as most of his European counterparts did. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used more courageous words and said many times he is fighting “radical jihad” and “Islamism.” The French parliament passed laws allowing what is still impossible in Belgium:police searches at night. But France stands alone, and effectively the situation in France is no better than in Belgium. Islamist enclaves exists in many suburbs. Whole cities are controlled by thugs and radical imams: cities such as Roubaix, Trappes, Aubervilliers and Sevran in the northeast of Paris.

Islamist enclaves also exist in other European countries: Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, theUnited Kingdom and Sweden.

European leaders have been making choices. After World War II, they decided Europe would be a region of the world where war would be banished and all problems solved through diplomacy and appeasement. They gradually abandoned financing defense and security activities. Instead, they built welfare states. They thought that taking care of people from cradle to grave would suppress anger and conflicts. They denied the existence of totalitarian dangers and the necessity of showing strength. To this day, their statements indicate that European leaders think both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire fell thanks to the benevolence of Mikhail Gorbachev, not thanks to the determination of Ronald Reagan. To this day, they seem to think that Islam is essentially areligion of peace and that the jihadis belong to a tiny, marginal sect.

Decades ago, Europe’s leaders adopted a general policy of “openness” to the Islamic world in general, and the Arab world in particular. They decided to welcome migrants from the Muslim world by hundreds of thousands but without asking them to integrate. They made cultural relativism and multiculturalism their guiding principles. They acted as if Islam could mingle in the Western world harmoniously and without difficulty. Europe’s leaders disseminated the idea that the West was guilty of oppressing Muslims and had to pay for its sins. They therefore sowed the seeds of anti-Western resentment among Muslims in Europe.

When in the Muslim world jihadis started to kill, Europe’s leaders wanted to believe that the attacks would take place in the Muslim world only. They thought that by not interfering with what European jihadis were planning, they would not risk jihadi attacks on European soil.

When Jews were attacked, Europe’s leaders decided that the problem was not jihad, but Israel. They stressed the need not to “export Middle East conflict in Europe.” Hoping to please followers of radical Islam and show them Europe could understand their “grievances,” they placed increasing pressure on Israel. They also increased their financial and political support for the “Palestinian cause.”

When Europeans were attacked, they did not understand why. They had done their best to please the Muslims. They had not even harassed the jihadists. They still do not know how to react.

Many of them now say privately what they will never say in public: it is probably too late.

There are six to eight million Muslims in France, and more than thirty million in Western Europe. Hundreds of jihadis are trained and ready to act — anytime, anyplace. European intelligence services know that they want to make “dirty bombs.” Surveys show that tens of thousands of Muslims living in Europe approve of jihadi attacks in Europe. Millions of Muslims living in Europe keep silent, behave as if they see nothing and hear nothing, and protest only when they think they have to defend Islam.

European political leaders know that every decision they make may provoke reactions among the Muslims living in Europe. Muslim votes matter. Riots occur easily. In France, Belgium, other European countries, Islamists are present in the army and police forces. In the meantime, Islamist organizations recruit and Islamic lobbies gain ground.

European governments are now hostages. The European media are also hostages.

In most European countries, “Islamophobia” is considered a crime — and any criticism of Islam may be considered “Islamophobic.” People trying to warn Europe, such as the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, despite an apparently biased judge and forged documents against him, are now on trial.

Books on radical Islam are still published but surrounded by silence. Books praising the glory of Islam are in every bookstore. When Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia was published in Europe, she was denounced and received hundreds of death threats. Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept, published in the U.S., was not even available in Europe. Ten years later, the situation is worse.

Political movements expressing anger and concerns are rising. All are demonized by political power holders and the media. They have almost no chance of gaining more influence.

Populations are gnawed by fear, frustration and impotence. They are looking for answers, but cannot find them. A few hours after the attacks on Brussels, a man on Belgian television said that Europe is on the verge of suicide.

Europe looks like a dying civilization. European governments created a situation that can only lead to more attacks, more massacres, and maybe unspeakable disasters. Europe’s leaders continue to react with speeches and a few police operations.

If some European governments decided to restore their abolished borders, it could take years, and most European leaders would probably disagree with such a policy. Meanwhile, millions more “migrants” will enter Europe, and among them many more jihadis. In spite of the mayhem created in Germany by “migrants” who arrived in 2015, Angela Merkel said she would not change her decisions. No Western European government dared to disagree with her, except Viktor Orbán in Hungary, a lone voice of dissent.

In Brussels, as in Paris earlier, people gathered where the attacks took place. They brought candles and flowers to mourn the victims. They sang sentimental songs. They cried. There were no shouts of revolt against jihad. Members of the Belgian government called on the Belgian people to avoid reactions of violence, and declared that Muslims are the main victims of terrorism.

In Europe’s near future, more people will bring candles, flowers and songs to mourn victims. Another two or three jihadists will be arrested. But nothing will be done.

Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.

ISIS jihadi warns mom in Belgium: “Don’t go out on Monday”

The Rebel, by Victor Laszlo, April 10, 2016:

This story, widely reported in Belgian media, is now translated into English where an Islamic State jihadi warns his mother in Belgium not to go to popular public places tomorrow. (April 11)

Excerpt from the full English translation:

This SMS was published by numerous medias on Friday, with all the usualprecautions. But the police, who indeed know the identity of the mother and herson, take the matter very seriously and additional troops provide security in public places (cinema, party rooms, Shopping centres) in the city dear to Bart De
Wever. “It is, however, difficult to judge whether these threats are serious or not,” Wouter Bruyns, spokesman of the Antwerp police, told our colleagues fromNieuwsblad.

The original Belgian French article can be seen here

Given events in Belgium over the past few months, warnings such as this should be given consideration most certainly.

The dilemma is exacerbated by European nations’ reluctance to warn the public. If they do, they incur massive costs to civil society without the need for an actual attack; if they don’t inform the public, they risk a few dead.

The dilemma could be readily resolved were these nations to identify the threat — Islam — and take action against its agents.

Belgium Fell Asleep at Their Guard Post

20160322_BRUSSELSFamily Security Matters, by Barry Shaw, March 24, 2016:

Western intelligence services repeatedly warned Belgium of a serious and imminent terror threat. They even gave the intended targets, the airport and the underground system, but Belgian security services failed to take the necessary preventative measures that may have stopped the huge loss of life and injury on March 22 in Brussels.

As one Israeli counter-terror expert told me, “they fell asleep on guard duty even after being told the enemy was about to attack them.”

Whether the Belgians either did not take the warnings seriously, or they did not know what to do with the intelligence, it does seem, when adding other cases of Belgian dismissal of counter-terror warnings that there is deep rooted problem in that country.

Last November’s deadly terror outrage in Paris showed that Belgium was the base of the terrorists’ operations.

A top US counter-terror official travelling in Europe was turned down when he requested to meet his Belgian counterparts. He was told that they were “too busy” investigating the Paris atrocity. (‘Belgium not cooperating with US on counter-terror efforts,’ Reuters, 24 March, 2016)

This brush-off was one small sign of US frustration over Belgian handling of their growing Islamic terror threat. This frustration has stretched to Turkey who, last year, deported one of the Paris suicide bombers, Brahim Abdeslam, back to Belgium. He, apparently, slipped off the Belgian security radar, allowing him to travel to France and perpetrate his deadly attack.

Worse still, Turkey detained Ibrahim El Bakraoui in June 2015. They notified the Belgian Embassy in Ankara the same month and then deported him back to Brussels the following month. The Turks reported that “the Belgians ignored our warning that this person was a foreign fighter” (i.e. terrorist).  El Bakraoui was released by the Belgium authorities. They claimed that “no links to terrorism” could be found, yet this man walked undetected into Brussels airport together with his brother pushing two trolleys containing the two heavy bombs that killed and maimed too many people.

This, and now the revelation that the Belgium authorities were warned that this was about to happen and they did nothing to prevent it.

There is something sadly delusional in Belgium. It is a dysfunctional country with two populations, speaking different languages, at political loggerheads with themselves.

It thrives as the capital of European bureaucracy and is trapped by the thought-process and the system that this bureaucracy imposes on them. It is also trapped by the ideology that it has to show itself to be the supreme European example of progressive liberal socialist policies and philosophy. This has blinded them to the harsh reality of what has been playing out in their midst, and much of Western Europe, namely shunting a disillusioned and increasingly radicalized second generation youth into their ‘no-go zones’, a youth who, despite the social welfare benefits, resent the generosity of the country of their birth and wish to return to their Islamic origins not in the Middle East but in the place of their birth.

Against this backdrop Belgium, but certainly not confined to Belgium, put human rights, even for terrorists, before the human rights of their innocent civilians.

This may be the reason why they were so slow to act on the terror tip-off.  After years of condemning other countries such as America and Israel of offending their sensitivities in questioning terrorists, they couldn’t put themselves in the same situation even though they were warned of a ‘ticking bomb’ scenario. And so, they let the bomb go off.

They had the prime suspect in custody following the apprehension of Salah Abdelsam but they apparently did not extract the information from him. Despite this, they failed to act on the incoming intelligence that should have set red alert alarm bells ringing, especially as the targets were named.

The Belgium government has to prove itself more moral than morality permits. They claim they lose their humanity if they treat evil terrorist killers any differently than they would the ordinary man on the street. They are dangerously wrong. Charity, and humanity, begins at home by doing everything within their power to protect and defend the lives of their civilians above the rights of the stranger that comes to kill you. Human lives trump human rights.

Only three weeks ago, Belgium was warned in an EU report that untrained border guards at their main airport were failing to check suspicious passengers from high risk countries against the EU’s counter-terrorism database. (‘Belgium rebuked for chaotic passport control three weeks ago.’ Daily Telegraph, March 24.)

Compare that to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with its eleven rings of security.

The problem we saw in Paris and now Brussels is not what we saw happening in the last few months. It is what has been allowed to develop over the last fifteen to twenty years in Europe. PC is the new political incorrectness. Europe is beginning to become aware that warnings ignored for years have become deadly reality.  The havoc in their societies highlighted by the disaffected, the unemployed, the entitlement society, the rising crime rates, the rising voices of hate and resentment, the radicalization and the accelerating rate of violence and terror incidents, show that the socialist liberal politics simply have not worked. Opening their gates to a tsunami of migrants has put the final nail in the coffin of Europe as a compassionate society.

As I said in a recent conference on the refugee crisis, Calais is no longer Calais, Cologne is no longer Cologne, now Brussels is no longer Brussels. Compassionate Europe is no longer compassionate Europe but a fearful Europe. People do not leave the Middle East for Europe, they bring the Middle East with them into Europe. They bring with them their norms of thought and behavior. No amount of integration or tolerance can remove this inner self that leaves a resentment coming to the fore when all else fails.

This resentment displayed in a rapidly growing polarization in the population of many European countries. This has been caused by the failure of liberal socialist policies when it comes to social cohesion and national and personal security concerns.

Barry Shaw is the Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College. He is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’ 

Brussels Bombing Marks Strategic Shift by ISIS to Direct Attacks in Europe

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, March 24, 2016:

The suicide bombings in Brussels represent a shift in tactics for the Islamic State terrorist group toward direct, mass casualty attacks in Europe, according to a State Department security report.

“The March 22 bombings in Brussels and the November 13 attacks in Paris highlight a strategic shift by ISIL to direct operations in Europe versus relying on inspired and self-radicalized individuals,” said the report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a State Department security office that works with American corporations overseas.

“European authorities continue to warn of the risk of additional mass casualty attacks in the region,” the internal report based on open sources said.

Additionally, dozens of active Islamic State terrorists are now operating in Belgium and Europe. The Tuesday suicide bombings were carried out by Belgian extremists trained in Syria and Iraq who returned to the continent, the report said.

Three suicide blasts—two at Belgium’s international airport and one at a subway station— were set off between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. local time, killing 31 people and wounding 270.

The report warned that the threat of further terrorist attacks in Europe “remains high in the near future.”

“So far, ISIL has not targeted the U.S. private sector in Europe,” the report said. “However, the group is likely to continue coordinating attacks against soft targets to heighten the potential for collateral damage and maximize causalities.”

As a result, Americans in Europe should be vigilant for further terrorist bombings or shootings.

The report said two of the terrorists were brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

A third bomber who blew himself up at the airport has not been identified. Police, however, are looking for Najim Laachraoui, an ISIS recruiter and bomb maker who authorities have linked to the Paris attacks. Laachraoui, who authorities say traveled to Syria in 2013, was linked by DNA to two explosives belts found after the Paris attacks.

A fourth suspect in the plot is being sought by authorities after he abandoned a bomb at the airport and fled the scene.

Conflicting reports from Europe identified Laachraoui alternatively as the third suicide bomber killed in a blast at the airport, and as the still-unidentified man who fled the airport.

“The two deceased terrorists had heavy criminal records unrelated to terrorism,” Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told reporters in Brussels Wednesday.

ISIS claimed credit for the attack through its news agency.

In Turkey, the government announced Wednesday that one of the bombers, Ibrahim Bakraoui, was detained in June and deported to the Netherlands, Agence France Presse reported.

According to the report, the deadly blasts were carried out four days after the arrest of Saleh Abdelslam, one of the organizers of the Paris terror attacks who has been linked to ISIS and its recruitment network in Europe. The Nov. 15 attacks in Paris left 130 people dead.

“While no links between Abdeslam and the March 22 bombings were confirmed, it is evident that the bombings required resources and planning and likely were being prepared for some time,” the report said, adding that if Abdeslam was involved in the planning of the bombings, “the timing of the plot may have been pushed up by his arrest, possibly over fears of a disruption.”

The bombings in Brussels took place after several recent counterterrorism raids by security forces and shows “the pervasiveness of the network behind the terrorism threat in Belgium and elsewhere in Western Europe,” the report said.

A fourth suspect in the terror network was identified as Mohamed Abrini, who was photographed with Abdeslam at a gas station shortly before the Paris attacks.

“In addition to Abrini, Laachraoui, and the suspect in the airport bombing, dozens of other returned foreign fighters and homegrown extremists may currently make up a network of extremists in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe, which is difficult for authorities to map out, let alone to eradicate,” the report said.

According to the report, out of the approximately 500 Belgian Islamists who recently traveled to Syria and Iraq, 128 have returned home.

“An estimated 215 Belgian foreign fighters originated from Brussels,” the report said.

Most of the Belgian ISIS terrorists come from areas outside Brussels, including about 100 from Antwerp and about 40 from the Flemish Brabant region, including Vilvoorde.

The large number of locations that produced ISIS members suggests that “communities vulnerable to radicalization exist throughout the country,” the report said.

Belgian military forces deployed an additional 225 troops after the attacks and boosted security at nuclear power facilities.

Shortly after Tuesday’s attacks, security forces raided a residence in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels that was linked to the airport bombers. Inside, explosives, chemicals, and a black IS flag were found.

The explosive material likely used in the attack was identified as a homemade substance called TATP, for triacetone triperoxide. Thirty-three pounds of the material was found in the Schaerbeek residence, according to news reports.

The report warned that additional police raids are likely and that there is still a risk of additional attacks or copycat strikes.

Despite the attacks, which disrupted air and subway travel, stores and businesses remained opened and the airport is expected to reopen on Saturday.

Cell phone service was temporarily disrupted shortly after the attacks by the high volume of calls, not by any damage to communications networks.

Social media was used as an alternative communications method, and Facebook activated its safety check feature that helped travelers notify others of their status and location.

The State Department report said U.S. private sector companies were not specifically targeted in the bombings, but that the attacks impacted several U.S. firms.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based headquarters of the U.S. European Command restricted travel to Brussels by troops and their families after the bombing.

Brussels is the headquarters of the NATO alliance.

Also see: