A man has been charged with terror offences including attempted murder after he was arrested driving at high speed into a crowded shopping area in the Belgian port city of Antwerp.
However, a source close to the investigation told AFP that investigators could not confirm if it was a terrorist attack and said the driver made little sense during interrogation.
Other sources said the charges could be interpreted as a “precautionary measure” to keep the suspect in detention.
The suspect, a 39-year-old Tunisian identified as Mohamed R, was charged with “an attempt to murder in a terrorist manner, an attempt to hit and wound in a terrorist manner and arms infractions”, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The Belgian capital has a problem with extremist Islam, Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said in an interview with newspaper De Morgen published Wednesday, one year after the terror attacks at Zaventem Airport and Maalbeek metro station.
“Everyone knows that all mosques in Brussels are in the hands of Salafists,” Mayeur said, referring to the radical form of Islam. “We need to change this, we need new mosques that follow our democratic rules and that are being controlled by the government.”
However, Mayeur denied claims his city is the capital of jihad, an image that emerged after authorities revealed many of the terror suspects responsible for the Paris and Brussels terror attacks lived or operated from the city.
“Jihadism in Belgium started in Antwerp, then spread to Vilvoorde, Molenbeek and Brussels-north,” Mayeur said.
Boys ride on their bicycles past shops in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where Belgian police staged a raid following the attacks in Paris, at Brussels, Belgium November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Police in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek have uncovered 51 groups with alleged ties to terror organizations, according to a confidential report released Monday on anti-terror measures in the country.
More than 8,600 houses and 22,668 residents in the area have been checked by authorities over the past year, according to Belgian newspaper De Morgen. Out of more than 1,600 organizations and businesses in Molenbeek, 102 are suspected of having ties to crime and another 51 are linked to terrorism.
Security has been ramped up at a Belgian train station after an ISIS militant filmed himself there threatening to cop off the heads of civilians and fill the streets with blood.
Islamic State issued the sick threat to Belgium warning an attack on the country is imminent in an eerie video, which starts with a militant showing a piece of paper reading ‘we are still here’, and shows a terrorist walking through Antwerp.
It is filmed in and around the city’s Central Station where police are desperately scouring CCTV footage in an attempt to identify the man behind the camera as extra officers have been deployed.
Between mid-November and mid-December anti-terror police detained more than 30 people at Brussels Airport on suspicion of “links with terrorism or offences linked to the security of the state”, local media reported Monday. Although 30 in one month equals one terror suspect per day (!), Interior Minister Jan Jambon said it was “too early” to give exact details.
After the terror attacks at Brussels International Airport and Maalbeek metro station in March 2016, some 109 specially trained officers have been deployed, with most of them working at the airport.
The Turkish authorities have arrested a man described as the “best friend” of Najim Laachraoui, one of the Zaventem suicide bombers. In May 2016 – after the attacks – the man was sentenced to 7 years in jail on terrorism charges. He appealed the verdict and was able to leave Belgium at the end of last year.
Belgian Muslims are increasingly influenced by radical Salafi and even Wahhabi schools of Islam, which succeed in dominating more and more mosques and religious centres. Extremist Islamic preachers have been gradually outcompeting their less fanatical ideological competitors in the Western European country, a recent study by the Organization for the Coordination of the Threat Level (OCAD) has concluded.
At the same time, researchers found that imams (Islamic preachers) operating in comparatively moderate mosques are radicalising as well.
Some 60 percent of Belgians consider Islam to be incompatible with European values, the latest poll indicated on Monday.
BRUSSELS (Sputnik) — The survey, conducted jointly by the Soir newspaper, the RTBF broadcaster, the Survey&Action institute and the Ceci n’est pas une crise foundation, also indicated that seven out of ten Muslim Belgian respondents thought they are treated as foreigners, RTBF’s La Premiere radio station reported.
In turn, the Soir newspaper published survey results showing that 77 percent of respondents no longer felt at home in Belgium, while 65 percent feared the recent influx of refugees. A total of 70 percent expressed the desire for a strong government to restore order in the country.