Wel­come to Molen­beek, the ji­hadi nest at heart of Europe

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

ONE NEIGH­BOUR­HOOD in western Brussels has be­come the fo­cus of at­ten­tion for Euro­pean se­cu­rity ser­vices in the wake of the Paris at­tack.

It has emerged that the sub­urb of Molen­beek served as a plan­ning and lo­gis­tics base for the ji­hadis.

Molen­beek is also the area where other ter­ror­ists who car­ried out re­cent at­tacks in France and Bel­gium found a haven and ac­quired weapons.

A se­ries of po­lice raids took place in the sub­urb this week, where it is es­ti­mat­edthatatleas­tathirdof the100,000 res­i­dents are Mus­lims of Moroc­can and Turk­ish ori­gin.

Salah Ab­deslam, one of the sus­pected Paris at­tack­ers — who is still at large — lived in the neigh­bour­hood, along with his brother Ibrahim, who was killed in the at­tack when he ex­ploded the sui­cide-vest he was wear­ing.

An­other Daesh mem­ber who lived in the area is Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud, the man in­tel­li­gence ser­vices be­lieve di­rected the at­tack from Daesh’s Syr­ian strong­hold in Raqqa. Around 300 Bel­gian cit­i­zens are cur­rently be­lieved to be fight­ing with Daesh in Syria, the h i g h e s t p r o p o r - tion of any Euro­pean coun­try. In ad­dit i o n , F r e n c h A sol­dier stands guard in Molen­beek Terror den (clock­wise from top left): a car is towed dur­ing a po­lice raid; Bel­gian spe­cial force of­fi­cers pre­pare to en­ter a house; the lo­ca­tion of the sub­urb in Brussels; the neigh­bour­hood probed af­ter the re­cent Paris at­tacks ter­ror­ists Mo­hammed Merah, who killed four Jews and three sol­diers in Toulouse in 2012; Me­hdi Nem­mouche, who mur­dered four peo­ple at the Jewish Mu­seum in Brussels last year; and Amed Coulibaly, who killed four Jews in the Hy­per Cacher gro­cery in Paris in Jan­uary, are all known to have vis­ited Molen­beek and re­ceived as­sis­tance there.

Lo­cals say that one of the main fac­tors lead­ing to radi

cal­i­sa­tion is a grow­ing gen­era- tional di­vide be­tween par­ents who em­i­grated to Bel­gium and worked hard to build a fu­ture for their fam­i­lies, and the sons who were born in Brussels and do not feel part of the so­ci­ety their par­ents hoped they would join.

The clan­nish at­mos­phere in the neigh­bour­hood and other ar­eas of Brussels with large Mus­lim im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties is ex­ac­er­bated by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment sys­tem.

The cur­rent set-up, which splits pow­ers be­tween a host of may­oral­ties and coun­cils, makes deal­ing with alien­ation and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion in a sys­tem­atic fash­ion much more dif­fi­cult.

For ter­ror­ists plan­ning at­tacks in other Euro­pean coun­tries, an area like Molen­beek is not just a friendly base, it is also a way of plac­ing bu­reau­cratic ob­sta­cles in the way of the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices pur­su­ing them.

Jean-Louis Bruguière, the for­mer se­nior in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge in charge of counter-ter­ror­ism in France, says: “When the at­tack­ers use a dif­fer­ent coun­try to plan and pre­pare, it makes it very com­pli­cated for us to de­tect them. And even if we are very close to that coun­try and share in­tel­li­gence, as we do with Bel­gium, it’s not the same. Each mem­ber-state of the EU has their own agenda and sense of pri­or­i­ties and un­der­stand­ing of the in­tel­li­gence.”

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

MAP: JEF­FREY SHIU

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