Bloomberg reports on Belgium, one of the main hotbeds of Islamist radicalism:
The deadly violence in Paris on Friday is the latest in a series of attacks with strong links to Belgium, adding to mounting evidence the country has become one of the main havens for radicalized young men intent on terrorizing Europe.
As French investigators try to piece together the identity of radical networks responsible for the bloodiest act of terrorism in Europe in a decade, it emerged that two of the killers were Frenchmen who had been living in Belgium. Since Friday night’s attacks, police have detained seven other people in Brussels who they suspect have links to the atrocity.
“Recruiting networks center around Belgium,” David Gartenstein-Ross, a counter-terrorism specialist at the U.S.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said by telephone on Sunday. Authorities will be questioning “whether militants consider Belgium to be a more permissive environment” and whether there is “a community of extremists who can move relatively undetected.
Wedged between the euro area’s two largest economies of France and Germany, Belgium has for decades been best known for its chocolate shops and breweries, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every year to its cobbled streets and sidewalk cafes. Now it’s facing up to a grim new reality: the country also is a playground for terrorists.
“The terrible attacks that were directed against us on Friday were prepared abroad by a group of individuals based in Belgium who, as the investigation will show, benefited from accomplices in France,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in Paris on Sunday.
Even before Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 people, governments and counter-terrorism authorities were pointing fingers at Belgium. At the start of the year, Belgian prosecutors said they suspected that at least one of the gunmen who killed 17 people in three days of attacks in and around the French capital, including nine journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, had been in contact with an arms dealer in Belgium.
Later that month, Belgian police killed two suspected terrorists and arrested a third in a shootout in the eastern town of Verviers that they said prevented a major attack on law-enforcement officers.