In the wake of the Brussels terror attacks, question have been asked about how Belgium became a hotbed for Islamic radicalisation. And why militants, returning from Syria, are able to slip through the security net and carry out murderous attacks.
CCTV’s Kate Parkinson reports from Brussels.
What has caused Belgium to become a hotbed for terrorism?In the wake of the Brussels terror attacks, question have been asked about how Belgium became a hotbed for Islamic radicalisation. And why militants, returning from Syria, are able to slip through the security net and carry out murderous attacks. CCTV's Kate Parkinson reports from Brussels.
Belgium is known for it’s chocolate and its beer, but it is now also becoming infamous as a recruiting ground for terrorism.
Per capita, Belgium has the highest number of foreign fighters who’ve joined the so-called Islamic State. Dozens have roots in Molenbeek – a rundown district in Brussels – which became known as a hotbed for radicalism following the Paris terror attacks.
The mayor told us the area has high unemployment, and jihadist recruiters target young men with few prospects who are susceptible to the ISIL message.
“They were also thugs, delinquents, ordinary delinquents but some of them had also been to jail. And after they have been, I would say, infected by the jihadism, infected by this violent radicalisation, by this terrorism,” Molenbeek Mayor Francoise Schepmans said. “And so I’d say there are several factors which explain why some youth from here became jihadists.”
The ring leader of the Paris attacks – Abdelhamid Abaaoud – and three other attackers grew up in Molenbeek. This includes Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested after a four-month manhunt back in his home neighborhood.
The presence of a terrorist den in the heart of Brussels is a reminder that the pipeline of foreign fighters from Europe to Syria flows both ways. And when jihadists do return they are able to hide from the authorities and plan and carry out their murderous attacks.
Experts said major changes need to be made in the way intelligence agencies track jihadists returning from Syria.
“The European intelligence relies too much on technology – satellites, phone tapping etc. Which are wonderful toys for spies. But it will not give you an inside. It will not give you a human source,” Claude Moniquet, a former French spy, said. “To get the human source you need to have a human officer on the field. And it’s only the human source who will tell you, ‘this man is dangerous and tomorrow he will attack somewhere in Brussels or in Paris’.”
Police are still searching for suspects with links to the Brussels attacks, but bringing those responsible to justice may do little to stop further radicalisation.
Jean Bricmont on the Brussels raid
For more on the attacks, the arrests, and what to expect next, CCTV America was joined by Jean Bricmont. He’s professor of theoretical physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He’s also the author of “Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War.”