Defence rejects army protection for Jewish sites

Summary

While the mayor of Antwerp requests protection for Jewish sites in the city, members of the Jewish World Congress visit Brussels, and the Jewish Museum shooting suspect is not co-operating with French police

Suspect not co-operating with police

It is not the job of the army to guard Jewish sites against possible terrorism, a spokesperson for the federal defence ministry has said. The call for military protection for sensitive sites in Antwerp came from the city’s mayor, Bart De Wever, in the wake of the terror-inspired shootings at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month.

“We have a large Jewish community in Antwerp,” said De Wever. “They have been under increased threat for some time, and there have been attacks. I find it the least Defence could do is to help us protect those targets.”

Meanwhile, reports from Marseilles said that the man arrested in the French city in connection with the museum shootings, in which three people died and one was seriously injured, was refusing to co-operate with investigators. Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national who fought in Syria alongside Islamist rebels, is expected to be extradited to Belgium soon.

Yesterday, members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) held a ceremony for the dead outside the museum in Brussels, later expressing their desire to meet government representatives. “I want to talk to them about doing more in the way of education,” said WJC president Ronald Lauder. “We can never have enough security to protect people, but what we can do is educate people, and there’s no room in Belgium or in Europe for anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity or anti-Islam. We must live in peace.”

The group later had talks with prime minister Elio Di Rupo and federal interior minister Joëlle Milquet regarding security measures.

Governments across Europe need to be prepared for more attacks similar to the one on the Jewish Museum, and take steps to prevent them, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the Belgian in charge of the EU’s counter-terrorism office. 

“I don’t believe we need to be concerned about large-scale attacks, like the one on 11 September 2001 in the US,” said de Kerchove. “Europe has to prepare itself for attacks by individuals who aim to kill several people at one time. That is terrifying enough. More than 2,000 Europeans have left or wish to leave to fight in Syria. Some of them have returned. That is not to say that they all want to carry out terrorist attacks, but some of them will.”

Defence rejects army protection for Jewish sites, arguing that it is not the job of the army to guard Jewish sites against possible terrorism.

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