Muslim Hate in Belgium

Belgian vice PM acknowledges street celebrations following Brussels attacks

March 30, 2016


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) – In the days following terrorist attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, the county’s vice prime minister said.


Jan Jambon made the statement about the March 22 bombings, which killed 35 people, on Wednesday during a symposium titled “Terrorism, Israel and International Law” and organized by the Dutch anti-racism and pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, or the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel, in The Hague.


Jambon, a rightist politician, made the remark while acknowledging Belgium has a jihadism problem. One of Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is the continent’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, CNN reported. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists.


But, Jambon said, racial profiling of jihadists is ineffective. He also said jihadists hail from various backgrounds, “including doctors, lawyers, and common criminals,” and not only from poor environments. Only one in six jihadists comes from a poor home in Belgium, he said. Jambon urged better pan-European cooperation on terrorism.


Jambon’s statement on street celebrations follows criticism of the media’s failure to cover such events, including by the prime minister of the Flemish Region, one of the federal Belgian state’s three autonomous states. Flemish Prime Minister Geer Bourgeois said that shortly before the attacks, which are believed to have been the work of Islamic State terrorists, his region’s public broadcaster did not report on riots by Muslims. The attacks happened four days after the arrest of Salah Abdelslam, a suspected terrorist alleged to have been involved in terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last November.


“It is, to me, highly shocking that after Abdelslam’s arrest, 200 young people of foreign origins hurled spontaneously bottles and stones on our police,” Bourgeois said. “It is regrettable that we saw nothing of these images on national television news.”


VRT, the Flemish public broadcaster, said it did not report about the incident for technical reasons and not out of a desire to silence it.


Chilling map reveals how Isis fanatics established network of terror where they could plot under noses of police

•    Seeds of the terror attacks in Brussels were planted by childhood friends who grew up near each other
•    Police investigating the men behind the massacres in France and Belgium have been led to Molenbeek
•    The centre of the deadly network is the Abdeslam family home - a first floor apartment on Gemeenteplaats
•    Just round the corner is the home of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the brains behind the Paris attacks in November
•    Family home of Mohamed Abrini, 30, who is accused of being involved with the Brussels plot, is also nearby

By JAKE WALLIS SIMONS IN BRUSSELS, BELGIUM FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 06:54 EST, 23 March 2016

The seeds of the terror blasts that shook Europe were planted by a brotherhood of childhood friends who grew up just a few doors away from each other in a part of Brussels dubbed the 'crucible of terror'.


Police following the trail of the terrorist murderers behind the atrocities in France and Belgium have repeatedly arrived at a single block of housing in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels known as a hotbed of jihadism.


The centre of the deadly network is the Abdeslam family home, a first floor apartment on Gemeenteplaats, behind the local police station – and just round the corner from the home of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the brains behind the Paris attacks.


Abaaoud, the linchpin of the terror cell, was killed in a furious shootout with police in Saint-Denis, Paris, in the aftermath of the November massacres. He has emerged as the group's ringleader, along with Salah Abdeslam.


Brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam were involved in the carnage in Paris, in which Brahim, 31, was killed in a suicide attack on the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant.


It is understood that Salah, 26, went on the run without detonating his suicide vest.


Salah, who is accused of making the bombs used in the attacks, was arrested last week round the corner from the family home in a frantic police raid after four months on the run. He is also thought to have been involved in the Brussels attacks with a 'new network' of fanatics.


Just a few doors down from the Abdeslam and Abaaoud apartments is the family home of Mohamed Abrini, 30, who drove the Abdeslam brothers to Paris to carry out the attacks and is accused of being involved with the Brussels plot. He remains at large, and police are desperately trying to track him down.


Abrini is a childhood friend of Salah Abdeslam, and it is thought that the two became radicalised together. Moreover, Abrini’s younger brother Souleymane, 20, died in 2014 in Syria while fighting in the same ISIS military unit as Abaaoud,


Yesterday, a family member at the Abrini property told MailOnline she was 'in a state of shock' in the aftermath of the latest atrocities, and feared that Abrini may have once again been involved.


The tight-knit network doesn't end there. A short distance from the Abdeslam and Abrini residences is the home of Ayoub El Khazzani, the terrorist who launched the botched gun and bomb attack on the Amsterdam-to-Paris express train in August last year.


The close bond shared by the band of brothers sheds new light on the dangers threatening Europe, where the efforts of a small number of childhood friends can bring the continent to its knees.


It also allows police to piece together the process by which they were radicalised, and identify which members of the cell were the linchpins and which were under their spell.


Questions remain about how the gang of young men, all of whom were Belgian citizens, can have transformed into death-loving monsters, showing loyalty to each other but a profound hatred of their country and fellow citizens.


Although Molenbeek is the gang's centre of gravity, last night it emerged that Salah Abdeslam had moved his operations to Schaerbeek, a district of Brussels three miles away.


It was there that the notorious bomb factory was located, where the El Bakraoui brothers prepared for Tuesday’s attacks.


Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 30, carried out the airport bombing, and his younger brother Khalid, 27, blew himself up at Maelbeek Metro on Tuesday morning.


The terror den, on the fifth floor of a dilapidated apartment block, was found to contain explosive materials and an ISIS flag.


The killer brothers took a taxi to the scene of the attacks with a fourth ISIS suspect - dubbed the 'Man in White' - who remains at large.


Also involved with the Brussels plot was Najim Laachraoui, who blew himself up at the airport alongside Ibrahim. He too lived in Schaerbeek.


The twisted Bakraoui brothers rented a flat in the Forest suburb of Brussels. Armed police raided the address on Tuesday and shot dead Algerian Mohamed Belkaid.


MailOnline spoke to Mohammed Abdeslam, the prime suspect's brother, outside the family home.


'I can't tell you if my brother was supposed to be involved in today's attack because if I told you I knew, I'd be in very big trouble right now,' he said before driving off in his black BMW 4X4.


Meanwhile, Police working in the part of Brussels where terror raids were carried out last night spoke out about how their pleas for help were ignored.


Belgian authorities were so focused on nearby Molenbeek, known as a hotbed of jihadism, that they were unaware that Europe’s most wanted man was forming a new terror network in Schaerbeek, another Muslim-dominated area just three miles down the road, they said.


The local community there views police with contempt, they added, and are unlikely to report terrorists to the authorities even if they do not have jihadi sympathies themselves.


‘Frankly I wasn’t surprised,’ a policewoman who wished to remain anonymous told MailOnline. ‘Nobody takes what happens in this district seriously. Every day we arrest well-known criminals and the next day they are back on the streets.


‘It is frustrating that we are doing our work but the justice system doesn’t back us up.


‘These people are not being prosecuted or fined, they are just being released. We arrest them and nothing happens to them.


‘One or two hours later they smile and mock us, believing they are on the winning side.’


The ‘lack of respect for police and for Belgium’ in the local multicultural community meant that the terror cell could operate without fear of being reported, she added.


This made Schaerbeek – which has been ‘off the radar’ for terror police – the ideal place for a deadly jihadi to hide out.


‘We have been asking for the higher authorities to take this district more seriously but it hasn’t happened,’ she said.


Her commanding officer, who also did not want to be named, agreed. ‘We have not been blind to the fact that something serious has been going on here,’ he said.


‘We have several people under surveillance but there are others that are unknown and blending in with the wall.


‘They are deeply embedded in the local community. They know each other and have family here, but nobody says anything.


‘On the surface it can seem like there are no problems, but deeper down there are big problems.’


The officers spoke at the scene of one of the police raids that took place in the district last night, near the Ahl Allah mosque.


A thick plume of white smoke billowed into the sky as multiple police vans, ambulances and fire engines screamed past.


As police tried to control the throngs of young men of Middle Eastern and north African descent who had gathered to watch, they were mocked with hoots and chicken noises.


Masked officers arrested at least three young men before order was restored.


‘There is no terrorist on this street. The police are making it up to make Muslims look bad,’ said 27-year-old Mohammed, surrounded by several other young men. ‘It is a set-up.’


But Sofian, 27, said he was worried that the terror investigation in the district would give it a bad name.


‘It was just one or two people who happened to be living here,’ he said. ‘There are terror cells all over Brussels, not just in Schaerbeek.’


Although Molenbeek has long had a reputation for radical Islamism, it is Schaerbeek that has been thrown into the spotlight in the latest stages of the investigation into the Brussels attacks.


Just hours after a series of blasts killed 34 people in the capital and injured hundreds more, police found a nail bomb, chemicals and an ISIS flag in a raid on an apartment in the district.


The discoveries were made as officers followed up information that two suspected terrorists involved in the Paris attacks were holed up in the area.


Najim Laachraoui, a newly-identified ISIS suspect whose DNA was found on bombs used in the Paris attacks, rented an apartment in Schaerbeek, and Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam is believed to have been holed up in an apartment there for three weeks after the massacres in France.


Speculation has surrounded the relationship between the alleged brains behind the Paris attacks and the Brussels atrocities.


There have been suggestions that the attacks were launched as revenge for his arrest, or that they were brought forward in case Abdeslam revealed details under interrogation.


But yesterday a senior Belgian official revealed that Abdeslam would have taken part in today's deadly attacks in Brussels if he hadn't been arrested.


The terror suspect was arrested on Friday after a dramatic shootout with police in which he was wounded in the leg.


Suspicions that Abdeslam also masterminded the Brussels atrocities arose when Belgian police found his fingerprints on detonators intended for use in the attacks, according to an anonymous source quoted by Politico.


The latest revelations come after Belgium's Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, told a conference the day after Abdeslam’s arrest that the jihadi was 'ready to restart something from Brussels' using a new terror cell he had formed.


'We found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons in the first investigations, and we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels,' he said.


Today, MailOnline spoke to Mohammed Abdeslam, the prime suspect's brother, outside the family home.


'I can't tell you if my brother was supposed to be involved in today's attack because if I told you I knew, I'd be in very big trouble right now,' he said before driving off in his black BMW 4X4.


The apartment where his brother was found hiding out and arrested in a dramatic shootout with police is just a short walk from the Abdeslam flat.


Moreover, the apartment belonging to Mohammed Abrini, thought to be the man who drove Abdeslam to Paris to carry out the attacks, is just a few doors down, raising concerns that this is a close-knit cell of terrorists that have been hiding in plain sight.



Strikes Claimed by ISIS Shut Brussels and Shake European Security


By ALISSA J. RUBIN, AURELIEN BREEDEN and ANITA RAGHAVAN

MARCH 22, 2016
The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Bombs packed with nails terrorized Brussels on Tuesday in the deadliest assault on the European heartland since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris four months ago, hitting the airport and subway system in coordinated strikes that were also claimed by the militant extremist group.


The bombings paralyzed Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, prompted international travel warnings to avoid Belgium and reverberated across the Atlantic to the United States, where New York and other major cities raised terrorism threat levels. Anxieties intensified about the inability to prevent mass killings at relatively unprotected places.


At least 30 people were killed by two blasts at the Brussels airport departure area around 8 a.m. and one in a subway station shortly after 9. The police found at least one other unexploded bomb in a search of a Brussels house hours later.


And Europe’s most wanted person suddenly became an unidentified man in a white coat and dark hat seen pushing a luggage cart in an airport surveillance photo taken just before the bombings. Two other men in the photo, each wearing a black glove on his left hand, were identified by Belgian prosecutors as suspected suicide bombers who appeared to have died in the explosions.


“To those who have chosen to be the barbaric enemies of liberty, of democracy, of fundamental values, I want to say with the greatest strength that we will remain assembled and united,” the Belgium prime minister, Charles Michel, said at a news conference Tuesday evening, declaring a three-day mourning period.


Francis Vermeiren , the mayor of Zaventem, the Brussels suburb where the airport is located, was quoted by Agence France-Presse late Tuesday as saying all three men had arrived in a taxi, putting suitcases that contained the bombs on luggage carts.


CNN reported on Tuesday night that the police removed bags of evidence from an apartment in the northeast Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, after a taxi driver who saw the photograph of the men told the authorities that he had taken them from the building to the airport that morning, with many large bags.


Passengers who had been in line at airport departure counters described sudden panic and mayhem as the explosions turned the area into a death trap with flames, smoke, flying glass, nails and shrapnel, leaving at least 10 people dead.


“We heard a big noise and saw a big flash,” said one passenger, Ilaria Ruggiano, who had been traveling with six others, including her mother. “My mother went to the floor — she was hit. I just dropped my luggage and went to the floor. A kid came out, bleeding a lot. I tried to help him with a tissue, but it was not enough. There were two bombs.”


The airport was closed, disrupting and diverting dozens of flights and leaving hundreds of passengers stranded, and the Belgian authorities placed the entire metropolitan area on emergency lockdown. It was not clear when the airport would reopen; the Belgian authorities said it was certain to remain closed Wednesday because of the investigation.


Then at 9:11 a.m. — the timing may just have been an eerie coincidence — a bomb tore through a car in the rear part of a subway train pulling out of the busy Maelbeek station at the height of the morning rush, killing at least 20 people.


“We felt a boom; we felt the building tremble,” said Henk Stuten, 50, who works for the European Commission in an office above the station. “We saw through the windows that people were rushing out of the metro exit.”


More than 230 people, including people from around the world, were wounded in the three blasts.


In the afternoon, Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State, issued a bulletin claiming responsibility for the attacks, calling them the work of suicide bombers.


Frédéric Van Leeuw, the Belgian federal prosecutor, said at a news conference on Tuesday night that “at this stage, it is not possible to draw a formal link with the Paris attacks.” A cell of 10 operatives, a number of them from the Brussels district of Molenbeek, were implicated in the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, which left 130 people dead. The Brussels strikes came only a few days after the Belgian police captured Salah Abdeslam, the only suspect in the Paris assaults believed to have survived, who is considered a potential trove of information.


The State Department on Tuesday warned Americans traveling in Europe to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation.” Terrorist groups, the department travel alert said, “continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants and transportation.”


The threat of further bombings was underscored by the official warnings for people in Brussels to remain indoors, as an intensive search was underway by the police in the Brussels area into Tuesday evening. The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement that one of the searches, in Brussels’s Schaerbeek district, led to the discovery of “an explosive device containing nails, among other things.” The statement said “chemical products and a flag of the Islamic State” also had been found there.


Late Tuesday, the Belgian Federal Police released new photographs of the suspected suicide bombers and asked people to contact the agency if they recognized them. The public call suggested that whatever information investigators had gathered at the scene, such as DNA, had not yet yielded information allowing them to identify the men or they were unknown to the Belgian authorities.


The heightened security in Belgium extended to two nuclear plants, Doel and Tihange, where nonessential workers were sent home, although the plants remained operational. Ine Wenmaekers, a spokesman for the Belgian nuclear regulatory agency, said that the step was precautionary and that “there was no direct threat to the power plants.”


World leaders reacted with horror and calls for solidarity, though the attacks also spotlighted the fractious debate over terrorism and Islam in Europe and in the American political campaign. The Eiffel Tower and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai were among the world landmarks lit up in the black, red and yellow of Belgium’s flag as night fell.


“Through the Brussels attacks, it is the whole of Europe that is hit,” President François Hollande of France declared. He vowed “to relentlessly fight terrorism, both internationally and internally.”


The French government ordered 1,600 extra police officers to patrol the nation’s borders, including at train stations, airports and ports. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called an emergency meeting of ministers. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany said the attacks “aim at the heart of Europe.” Pope Francis expressed condolences.


President Obama, speaking in Havana, called the Brussels attacks “yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.”


But a Russian official tempered sympathy with a scolding of his European colleagues over their policies on migration and terrorism. “It is time for Europe to understand where the real threat is coming from, and to unite its efforts with Russia,” Aleksei K. Pushkov, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Parliament, wrote on Twitter.


Since the Paris attacks, security experts have warned that Europe was likely to face additional assaults by the Islamic State and by other militant groups.


The Paris attacks showed that the scale and sophistication of the Islamic State’s efforts to carry out operations in Europe were greater than first believed, and analysts have pointed to Europe’s particular vulnerabilities. They include the huge flow of undocumented migrants from the Middle East last year; the unimpeded movement of European citizens between their home countries, neighboring countries and Syria to fight with the Islamic State; and persistent problems with intelligence-sharing among European countries and even between competing security agencies in some nations.


Few countries have been more vulnerable than Belgium. Among European countries, Belgium has the highest proportion of citizens and residents who have traveled to Syria or Iraq, insular Muslim communities that have helped shield jihadists, and security services that have had persistent problems conducting effective counterterrorism operations, not least in their four-month effort to capture Mr. Abdeslam.


Photographs and amateur video posted online showed the Brussels airport passengers covered in blood and soot, looking stunned but conscious. Some passengers were seen being taken away on luggage carts.


Jérôme Delanois said he was at an Internet cafe near the Delta Air Lines counter when he heard a thunderous noise. “There were two explosions — one big one and one little one,” he said. “The first one blew all the walls and everything. There were burning flames. The first one was bigger. It blew out all the windows.”


Most of the wounded in the subway blast were evacuated to the Rue de la Loi, outside the station, which serves the area that hosts most of the European Union’s core institutions.


Brian Carroll, 31, a communications consultant from Washington, said he was on a subway car near Maelbeek en route to a conference in downtown Brussels when he heard a loud blast.


“As we were pulling into the station, there was suddenly a loud explosion,” he said in a phone interview. “There was smoke everywhere. Everyone dropped to the ground. People were screaming and crying.”


Mr. Carroll said he had remained on the ground for one or two minutes, then got up, pried open a door of the subway car with his hands and fled.


“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ ” he said. “I headed toward an exit. There was smoke and soot everywhere. There was glass everywhere. It was like running through a cloud of dust. I saw the exit of the station was destroyed. I ran out of the station; I ran as far as I could.”




Belgian Muslim head to be tried for inciting riot

A judge on Thursday ordered a prominent Muslim leader and founder of a Belgian-Dutch Islamic political organization to stand trial along with two other group members on charges of inciting a riot in 2002 in Antwerp.

Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanese-born Belgian, and the two other men are accused of helping fuel several nights of violence by North African immigrants in Antwerp, angered by the fatal shooting of a teacher of Moroccan origin in November 2002. The rioters rampaged through a largely immigrant neighborhood, hurling rocks and scuffling with police, though no one was seriously injured.

At a pretrial hearing, the judge said there was enough evidence against the men to go ahead with the trial.

The judge, however, ruled against an attempt by prosecutors to label Abou Jahjah's Arab European League a militia, a designation that would effectively ban the organization.

 

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