Belgian authorities released a man arrested in a counter-terror raid after less than 24-hours questioning without charge — despite bomb-making materiel having been found in his flat.
Despite the one-bedroomed urban home of the unidentified man having no garden or plants and containing large amounts of fertiliser — a long standing favourite ingredient for home bomb-cooks — Belgian police failed to secure the flat or confiscate the equipment. The force has now been criticised by British security and counter-terror experts for releasing the man and saying the supplies were not “suspicious”.
The flat also contained ammonia cleaning fluids — another key home-made bomb ingredient — electrical wiring and a soldering iron, and a CO2 gas canister. All this was discovered at the point Belgian capital Brussels was put on a maximum security alert.
A number of British security experts have hit out at the oversight. Rejecting the claim by the Belgian prosecutor that “If there was something suspicious there the man would be in jail”, a retired senior British officer said even an ordinary officer without specialist training should have immediately got in “the antiterrorist people” at the first sight of the equipment.
A bomb disposal expert from a private security company told the Daily Telegraph while the supplies and equipment weren’t conclusive proof of bomb making, the context and situation they were found in should have set alarm bells ringing. He said: “the question is does this person need these items, have they got a garden? No, it is a flat.
“Is the flat full of really nice flowers – no. Is this is a person who takes really good care of the PH of the soil making sure that things can grow properly – no, there are no plants. So you have to ask why have they got them?”
While radical Islam has been spreading in and undermining Belgium for decades, the presence of the European Union and a number of other international organisations in Brussels has diverted diverted attention from the nation’s social and political problems. The Paris attacks have pulled these issues into public attention, a focus sharpened by a number of other recent Islamist attacks which took place in France but were launched, planned, or equipped from Belgium, take advantage of their lax approach to counter-terrorism.
A recently retired senior Swedish police officer named Belgium alongside Sweden this month as Europe’s two “sleeper countries” where terror cells, or wanted Islamists can lie-low as the local Muslim populations are sufficiently developed to allow them to vanish from view.