Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Chechen terror suspects busted in Belgian raid

  • Brussels police said they will not increase security measures (Photo: digitaledinges)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Some 26 individuals suspected of plotting bombings of Belgian targets were detained on Tuesday in Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Aachen, with several allegedly being members of a Chechnya-linked jihadi network.

Following 17 house raids in Brussels on Tuesday, Belgian police arrested approximately 15 people who are suspected of recruiting jihadi fighters for Iraq and Afghanistan. The arrests followed a three-year investigation into the Belgian Assabil Islamic Centre, which the police accuse of being a hotbed of Muslim radicalism.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Belgian, Dutch and German police detained eleven other suspects linked to a Chechen group planning to "commit an attack in Belgium," according to a statement by the Belgian prosecutor's office.

"The target of the attack was not yet specifically determined," the prosecutor's office added, but claimed they had enough information to justify the raids.

The arrests focused on "the recruiters, candidate jihadis and financing of a Chechen terrorist organisation" called the the Caucasus Emirate, the statement said. The investigation dates back to 2009 and has already triggered arrests in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

A special anti-terrorism judge in Mechelen, a city near Brussels, is due to rule on Wednesday whether and how many of the suspects will be charged. Possible charges include belonging to a terrorist organisation, money laundering and recruitment for a foreign military.

The Chechen ring is formed of six Belgian and Moroccan dual passport-holders. Three hold Dutch and Moroccan passports and two are Chechens with Russian passports. They came to the attention of Belgian authorities via a website, identified by police as "Ansar Al Mujahadeen," that was used to try to recruit Islamic radicals for terrorism.

The group is not linked to Lors Doukaiev, a Chechen and Belgian resident arrested in September for detonating a bomb in a Copenhagen hotel, police said.

Chechen rings are usually busted for petty crimes in Belgium, but the struggle of the north-Caucasian Islamic region to become independent from Russia has motivated jihadis from other parts of the world to mount terrorist attacks.

The Belgian arrests comes after a series of hightened security measures in Germany and Denmark, where authorities have warned citizens of potential terrorist attacks.

On Monday the glass dome of Germany's parliament building was closed until further notice to visitors after media reports said the popular tourist site was a potential target for Islamist extremists.

In Denmark, intelligence services warned of new information "that foreign-based terrorist groups will try to send terrorists to Denmark to stage attacks" and urged police to be "extremely vigilant" ahead of Christmas.

The United States issued on 3 October a travel alert for its citizens travelling in Europe, citing the risk of potential terrorist attacks on transportation systems and tourist attractions.

Belgium, however, will not increase its security arrangements, despite Brussels being the home of EU institutions and Nato's headquarters.

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