Belgian police have arrested eight terror suspects after a series of counter-terror raids in the city of Brussels. The arrests were made to avert an ‘attack in preparation,’ Belgian investigators confirmed.
The raids took place in the city’s Muslim-dominated Molenbeek district. Molenbeek was home to several members of the ISIS terror cells that carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks and suicide bomb attacks on March 22, 2016 at the Brussels airport and a train station.
Belgium, with its liberal immigration policy, has contributed the highest number of foreign fighters per capita of any Western European country — up to 700 in total. Hundreds of these battle-hardened jihadi war criminals are heading home, creating a security threat for the country and the rest of Europe.
The newspaper Daily Telegraph reported the details of the anti-terror raid:
The eight people were arrested in Brussels after the counter-terror raids which were part of an investigation into an alleged attack plot, a source close to the probe said.
All eight were arrested on Sunday in Molenbeek, which is an immigrant district with significant rates of poverty and unemployment.
Police raided seven homes on Sunday in the Brussels district of Molenbeek as well as the Flemish towns of Geraardsbergen and Mechelen, the office of the federal prosecutor said, adding that no weapons or explosives had been found.
The eight suspects were taken for questioning before a judge investigating an alleged terror plot, the source said, confirming a report in the Belgian daily La Derniere Heure.
In the early twentieth century, Molenbeek was at the center of Europe’s industrial revolution, earning it the nickname “Belgium's little Manchester.” The troubles for the district began under the reign of its Socialist mayor Philippe Moureaux, who was in office from 1992 till 2012. Under his administration law and order collapsed, and businesses fled due to surging crime. The district with an immigrant Muslim population of about 40 percent has since turned into a No-Go Zone.
Despite these latest police raids, the problem of terrorism is deeply-rooted in Molenbeek’s changing demography and recent history. Counter-terrorism measures can only foil specific terror plots; the wider issue of Islamist recruitment and mobilization still remains to be tackled.