Brussels is “weakest link” in Europe’s fight against terrorism

Summary

The federal home affairs minister has cited Brussels’ complicated police and political structures as a reason for the high number of people choosing to fight in Syria and Iraq

Plot details revealed

The complexity of the police and political structures in Brussels is a large part of why Belgium has supplied more jihad fighters to IS than any other country, according to federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon.

According to figures from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Belgium has supplied 40 fighters per million inhabitants to fighting in Syria and Iraq – more than any other European country. Denmark comes a distant second place, with 27 fighters per million.

According to Jambon, speaking at a debate this week organised by Politico, Brussels is the weakest link in the fight against radicalisation. Whereas authorities in some cities affected, such as Vilvoorde and Mechelen, have a good grip on the problem, Brussels does not, largely as a result of the capital’s structure, with its 19 municipalities and six police zones for a relatively small city of 1.2 million people.

“How many police zones has New York, a city of 11 million people?” he asked. “One.” He also revealed that a terrorist plot broken up this year in Verviers was not, as previously thought, a planned major attack. The plotters, he said, had planned to kidnap one police officer, whom they intended to kill on video. “They only wanted to kill one person, but the action would spread panic not only in Belgium but all over Europe.” Two of the three men involved were shot dead in a raid; the third is in custody.

“The thing that keeps me awake at night is the guy behind his computer, looking for messages from IS and other hate preachers,” he said. He warned of the growing use by terror networks of the gaming console PlayStation 4, which allows terrorists to communicate with each other and is difficult for the authorities to monitor. “PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” he said.

Photo courtesy Geert Renckens/Wikimedia

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