REUTERS/Yves Herman

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Jihadism in Belgium

A country that has suffered badly and still needs to be vigilant

This paper is part of the “Jihadist Terrorism in Europe” series, in which renowned experts analyze the current state of the jihadist threat in various countries, as well as the related counter-terrorism strategies and the political debates. Belgium is one of Europe’s hardest hit countries in the wave of jihadist terrorism and still faces a terrorism threat today. Possible future attacks are also likely to contribute to an already kindled polarization in society.
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In 2014, Belgium suffered the first-ever attack by the so-called Islamic State on Western soil, and in 2016 one of the deadliest, with the bombings at the Brussels airport and one of its metro stations. In 2020, it became clear that the danger emanating from terror organizations like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda has not been eliminated. Instead, there is talk of a new outbreak of jihadist terrorism.

Comparing the recent events with Belgium’s terrorist history, and looking at the extent of Belgium’s foreign terrorist fighters phenomenon, the authors Guy Van Vlierden und Pieter Van Ostaeyen demonstrate how the Syrian war has placed Belgium in its toughest chapter ever.

In this paper, the authors look at Belgium as one of Europe’s hardest hit countries in the current wave of jihadist terrorism. With 645 jihadists in the official Common Database of Belgian security services, the number of potential terrorists remains high for a country with less than twelve million inhabitants. However, the authors argue that this threat is by no means over. Looking at the whole of Western Europe, there was again a slight increase in 2020, both in the number of incidents and in the number of casualties.

Read more about this here in the PDF.