Belgium: Authorities Mired in 23 Anti-Terror Probes a Month

Belgium
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutors in Belgium have opened nearly 200 investigations against people suspected of terrorism-related offences since the beginning of this year, local media has reported.

The revelation that courts in Belgium have seen no improvement in the country’s fight against terror came shortly before as soldiers in Brussels shot a Somalian who attacked them with a machete while shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he attacked them with a machete.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office had launched 189 terrorism investigations so far in 2017, amounting to more than 23 new cases each month — higher than in any year other than 2015, when the large number of Belgian passport-holders who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State drove the monthly total to 26.

According to De Tijd, all of the country’s law enforcement and security agencies “from local police forces to the state security service” have now prioritised terrorism investigations, the focus of which have shifted from jihadis who fought alongside terror groups in the Middle East to “homegrown radicals”. and increasingly towards younger suspects who have never left Belgium.

Increasingly, they are looking at younger suspects who have never left Belgium.

Justice Minister Koen Geens boosted the number of magistrates working at the Federal Prosecutor’s Office from 24 to 32, with 12 now working solely on terrorism-related cases. Since January 2015, Belgian courts have convicted 289 people for terror-related offences.

Belgium, which sent more foreign fighters to Syria per capita than any other country in Europe, according to the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, suffered one of the worst terror attacks on the continent’s soil in 2016, when suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and the city’s metro killed 32 people.

Already on high alert, the country tightened security further in June after a failed suicide bombing by a man who shouted “Allahu Akbar” at a Brussels train station.

The would-be attacker, who tried to set off a nail bomb which could have caused multiple casualties among the roughly two dozen travellers who were checking train times on a public display board at Brussels Central Station, was neutralised by a soldier in the nick of time.

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