Ex­perts hud­dle on ter­ror fight

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS PETER­SON in Lon­don

With Europe fac­ing a fresh ter­ror threat af­ter three bomb blasts killed at least 34 peo­ple and in­jured about 270 in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal on Tues­day, an­a­lysts agreed that shar­ing in­tel­li­gence was at the heart of com­bat­ing ex­trem­ist groups such as Is­lamic State, which claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Brus­sels at­tacks.

Anthony Glees, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Buck­ing­ham in Lon­don and di­rec­tor of its Cen­tre for Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies, told China Daily that Bel­gium’s di­vided so­ci­ety made it easy for ter­ror groups to slip into that coun­try un­no­ticed.

He said the Brus­sels at­tacks on the main air­port and a rush-hour sub­way train came as no sur­prise, given last week’s ar­rest in Brus­sels of Salah Ab­deslam, a key sus­pect in the Novem­ber ter­ror at­tacks in Paris that killed 130 peo­ple.

Se­cu­rity an­a­lysts said the per­pe­tra­tors of the Paris at­tacks were traced back to Molen­beek, an area of Brus­sels with a heavy im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion — many from Syria, Iraq and North African coun­tries. Ab­deslam had fled from France to Molen­beek.

The ease with which Ab­deslam and oth­ers were able to cross the bor­der be­tween France and Bel­gium — un­til now free of con­trols be­cause of the Schen­gen Agree­ment, which es­tab­lished open bor­ders — was also a fac­tor.

Glees said there were doubts about the ef­fec­tive­ness of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Bel­gian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and the police.

The ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Europe have re­fo­cused at­ten­tion on the seem­ingly unchecked flow of mi­grants ar­riv­ing in Europe via Tur­key and Greece. In­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts said some of those in­volved in at­tacks over the past 18 months have used that route to in­fil­trate the EU and take ad­van­tage of the Schen­gen Area.

More than 1 mil­lion mi­grants, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are now in Europe.

“The dif­fi­culty is that those who want to cause trou­ble are al­ready in Europe, and the se­cu­rity ser­vices, es­pe­cially in Bel­gium, strug­gle to keep track of them,” said a Bri­tish ex­pert in asy­lum af­fairs who re­quested anonymity.

The at­tacks came at a par­tic­u­larly cru­cial time for the United King­dom, which will vote on con­tin­ued Euro­pean Union membership in a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on June 23.

Cur­rent polls in­di­cate that peo­ple want­ing to re­main in the EU are lead­ing. How­ever, those in fa­vor of leav­ing the EU said the at­tacks could swing the vote in their fa­vor, cit­ing in­creased se­cu­rity and less ex­po­sure to Europe­based ter­ror at­tacks as rea­sons.

Zhong Nan in Boao, Su Zhou in Bei­jing and Wang Mingjie in Lon­don con­trib­uted to this story.

Con­tact the writer at chris@mail. chi­nadai­lyuk.com

MARTIN MEISSNER / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple mourn for the vic­tims in Brus­sels af­ter ter­ror­ist at­tacks left at least 34 peo­ple dead and about 270 wounded on Tues­day in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal.

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