How Belgium became a terrorist hub – and target

By and

The attacks in Brussels on Tuesday March 22nd highlight once again how Belgium has become a nerve centre of jihadist terrorism in Europe, as well as being a target itself. The Belgian network led by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who led the November 13th bombings in Paris, was very active while the logistical 'expert' for the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested just last week, is suspected of having been involved in planning the latest attacks in the Belgian capital. Earlier this year, meanwhile, Europol warned of the risk of more attacks. As Belgian authorities identified three men with links to the Paris attacks as the Brussels suicide bombers, Matthieu Suc and Yann Philippin consider how Belgium has become a terrorist hub.

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In February 2015 Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who later led the November 13th attacks in Paris, taunted the Belgian authorities and agencies in the rest of Europe who were hunting him after his jihadist group had just been 'neutralised' at Verviers in Belgium. In an interview with Islamic State's English-language publication Dabiq, Belgian national Abaaoud justified the planning of attacks against the country of his birth : “As you know, Belgium is a member of the Crusader coalition that is attacking the Muslims of Iraq and Syria.”
Abdelhamid Abaaoud himself later died in a raid by French police at Saint-Denis in northern Paris just after the November attacks. But the threat to Belgium has remained a constant one. In a report dated January 18th, 2016, the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol said: “There are very strong pointers to another series of attacks planned by Islamic State taking place in Europe, certainly in France or in Belgium.” That threat became a reality in Brussels on Tuesday March 22nd when at least 31 people died in separate bomb blasts at the airport and a metro station.