Monday

23rd Jul 2018

Thousands turn out for Belgian anti-terror march

Children from Molenbeek in Brussels shouted slogans against the Islamic State (IS) militant group as up to 7,000 people gathered to march against terrorism in the Belgian capital on Sunday (17 April).

Mouhisme Abdelouohed, a 33-year old teacher in Molenbeek and a co-organiser of the march, said it was a shame the neighbourhood had to justify itself, after authorities found Paris attacker suspect Salah Abdeslam hiding there after four months on the run.

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"Muslims are an integral part of this society and we are here to march for peace and against terror," said Abdelouohed of Citizenship and Muslim Spirituality Federation, a Brussels-based civil society group that helped to organise the march.

His comments follow claims by Belgium's right-wing interior minister Jan Jambon that Muslims in the Molenbeek suburb "danced" in the wake of the suicide bombings in Brussels on 22 March.

“A significant section of the Muslim community danced when attacks took place,” he told the Flemish De Standaard newspaper over the weekend.

Negligence

Belgian authorities have been grappling with a series of revelations of missed chances, bungled investigations and professional negligence in their efforts to crack down on home-grown terrorism.

Among the more egregious failures was that the order to evacuate the Brussels metro came some 52 minutes after two bombs ripped through the Brussels airport.

And Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers at the airport, was freed from prison after serving four years for firing a Kalashnikov at the police.

He was then apprehended by the Turks near the Syrian border on the suspicion of being a foreign fighter before being sent to the Netherlands where he was released.

By September, he had been put on a terrorism watch-list in the US, but the Belgian authorities continued to treat him as a petty criminal.

Resignations

The errors prompted Jambon, along with justice minister Koen Geens, to hand in their resignations.

But Belgium's prime minister Charles Michel rejected their offers in what some critics have described as a publicity stunt.

Last week, transport minister Jacqueline Galant was forced to step down after leaked EU reports published by the Ecolo and Green parties showed she had ignored security issues at Belgium's five airports.

Zoe Genot, a federal Belgian deputy from the Ecolo party, told this website it is likely that more ministers will leave office once a special parliamentary committee has completed its investigation into how the government has responded to the warnings.

"I'm not sure that she was the last one to resign. I'm sure there will be others," said Genot.

Sunday's demonstration for peace was initially planned to take place on 27 March but had been postponed over security fears.

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