After the Madrid bombing in March 2004, it was reported that the Islamic terrorists who carried out the attack did the planning for it in Belgium.
When I was in Brussels in October, several Belgians told me that it was common knowledge that the Belgian authorities had made a tacit agreement with the terrorists: they could operate with impunity within the country so long as no attacks occurred on Belgian soil.
All this came to mind when I read the following article last night on News24. Has one of the two parties reneged on the deal?
Belgian security authorities believe that a terrorist attack on the country is possible over Christmas after 14 suspected extremists detained earlier in the week were released, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
The 14 suspected Islamic extremists were released overnight after being held on suspicion of planning to break a former footballer, Nizar Trabelsi, out of the prison to which he was condemned for 10 years for planning an attack on a Belgian military base in 2001.
A spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office said that searches of the suspects’ homes had uncovered documents but no weapons or explosives.
So it appears that releasing the fourteen terror suspects was not enough to call off the dogs of war.
Security measures similar to those for a G8 meeting discouraged Christmas shoppers in Belgium today, as police released 14 terror suspects for lack of evidence.
The authorities maintain the group were planning to break a convicted fundamentalist terrorist out of jail, but officers have so far failed to find any weapons or explosives despite numerous raids.
Belgium’s Director of Public Order Management, Alain Lefevre, said the investigation was ongoing.
“We need to put things in perspective. We should not create panic, but the people have not been released because there are no grounds. It’s judicial procedure. We have not closed the case.”
The caretaker Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told parliament yesterday that there was a real risk of a terrorist attack during the festive season.
But the imprisoned terrorist himself says the deal’s still on:
The jailed al Qaeda suspect at the centre of a security scare in Belgium has insisted he had no plans to launch an attack on the country, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
La Derniere Heure said it received a letter from Tunisian suspect Nizar Trabelsi accusing the authorities who raised a security alarm on Friday of “installing panic in the hearts of thousands for nothing”.
“I would like to know why I should be preparing an attack on your territory,” the newspaper quoted Trabelsi as saying in a letter it said had been handed to its offices by his partner.
“Neither Trabelsi, nor anyone has plans to do anything,” added Trabelsi, held in a prison just south of Brussels after his arrest in September 2001, when he told a radio station he was plotting attacks on U.S. targets in Belgium.
Here’s more from PR-inside:
“Not before, not today, nor tomorrow will the Belgian state be a target for Muslims,” Nizar Trabelsi wrote in the letter published by the daily La Derniere Heure.
So if we believe him, the nabobs in Brussels can breathe easy again.
And who’s to blame for this little misunderstanding? Three guesses:
In his letter, Trabelsi accused the United States of passing on false information that led to the detentions on Friday and blamed “paranoid” Belgian authorities of spreading panic ahead of Christmas.
I should have known the Great Satan was behind the whole thing.
Hat tip: JMcC.