Jihadist attacks in the Belgian city follow those in Paris
On March 22, terror filled the Belgian city of Brussels after the Brussels International Airport in Zaventem and Maelbeek Metro station were attacked during the morning rush hour, leaving 30 dead and 230 wounded. Three days before the attack, Salah Abdeslam, the man suspected for the Paris attacks, was arrested by police, who later proposed this arrest may have caused this attack to occur.
Prior to the Brussels attack, in Nov. 2015, Paris and northern suburbs of Paris were attacked by suicide bombers. Concert halls, cafés and sports games were among some of the places assailed, leaving 130 dead with hundreds more injured, The Telegraph reported.
Brussels expected attacks after the Paris incident. They tightened security in airports and government officials were on constant watch for suspicious behaviors throughout the city. According to BBC, “Security forces had a dry run in November, the terror threat was at its second highest and soldiers were already deployed on the streets of several cities.”
Also connected is that investigators captured Abdeslam, in the southwestern suburb of Brussels, Sint-Jans-Molenbeek.
According to BBC, “Belgium has struggled with Islamist groups for years and some 500 of its citizens have been lured into fighting for [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq.” More recently, Belgian terrorist populations have been increasing tremendously within the last few years.
Molenbeek is also the home of the Jihadist group which claimed responsibility for this attack. Belgian jihadism expert Pieter Van Ostaeyen suggests that he “had certainly expected something else would take place, but not that it would happen on this scale.”
Many thought these attacks were related to the arrest of Abdeslam earlier in the week. According to CNN, “The working assumption is that the attackers came from the network behind November’s massacres in Paris, which left 130 dead.” However, at the time of this assumption, it was too early to declare it as a definite correlation.
Jean Pederson, professor at the University of Rochester agreed. “There seems to be a distinct possibility that the Brussels attacks were a response to the arrest of people in Brussels who were involved in the Paris terrorist attacks,” she said. “Brussels itself is a symbolic target because it’s the head of the European Union and the capital of Belgium.”
The attacks themselves started around 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. NPR reported that at the airport, a suicide attacker set off explosions destroying the ceilings, shattering the windows and filling the hallways of the airport with smoke. Many ran out of the airport in panic, trying to maneuver their way out of the panic-stricken crowds. At the train station, trains came to a halt and people ran through the smoke-filled tunnels beside the tracks of the station.
Jonah Grob, a sophomore at Vassar College, was in the Brussels International Airport less than 24 hours before the attack took place. While traveling in Brussels, Grob noticed that “the city was on edge. There was soldiers everywhere, there was soldiers walking the street, in the metro stations.” While in the airport Grob also noticed that, “they had triple security.” Additionally, he stated he went “through normal security, then another round of security, and then even before [he] got on the plane everyone was patted down and thoroughly searched.” To him, it was evident they were expecting something.
Brussels did make many attempts to try and avoid this ordeal from happening. The New York Times reported that a month before the attack, a team of FBI members, the State department and the Department of Homeland Security “met with their Belgian counterparts a month before the Brussels terrorist attacks to try to correct gaps in Belgium’s widely criticized ability to track terrorist plots.” The publication discussed the lack of communication between European countries and United States, suggesting that the lack of intelligence regarding what is going on gives terrorist groups the ability to successfully plan their attacks. Additionally, as Eric Schmitt of The New York Times said, “the shortfalls plaguing Belgium and several other European countries come as no surprise to American officials, but the Islamic State’s sophisticated strikes in the heart of Europe in the past five months have alarmed administration officials.”
Now these issues are on the United States’s radar, and it’s also this country’s job to work with other European nations to prevent further attacks from taking place. If the United States uses the resources it has and is able to communicate to the best of its ability with the European nations, it can aid in decreasing the amount of terrorist attacks that are happening in Europe.
Emma Lewis is a freshman sociology major. You can email her at [email protected].