An attacker who detonated a nail bomb he was carrying in a suitcase at Brussels Central Station has been identified as a 36-year-old Moroccan national from the jihadi ghetto of Molenbeek.
Known only as Oussama Z, officials have said he was not on their radar for links to terrorism, though some local media said he was well-known for being as serial sex offender and others said he was embroiled in drug crime.
He is the latest in the long line of extremist to have come from the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek, branded as the ‘jihadist capital of Europe’ which harboured Salah Adbeslam, who is in prison for the Paris attacks in 2015.
Attempted suicide bomber Oussama Z entered the station at 8.39pm and twice approached a group of 10 passengers and on the second time stood in the middle of them, screamed, and tried to blow himself up.
A police officer with a Templar cross on his bulletproof vest has found himself in hot water in Belgium. Authorities say the symbol may be linked to extreme right-wing groups, while many on social media support ‘Kevin the Crusader.’
The dispute in Couvin, Belgium, a town of 13,000 people, started on Thursday when local media made several reports about a police officer wearing a Templar cross on his bulletproof vest. The media immediately linked the cross to extremist groups who sometimes use it as a symbol of their fight against Muslims.
A textbook aimed at teaching French to newly-arrived immigrants has stirred controversy in Belgium after it was found to contain references to bomb-throwing and imprisonment, local media reports.
Seems like a sensible outreach effort – Teach them what they know
“Papa throws a bomb and goes to jail”, “He threw a bomb and goes to prison” and “He shows me his bomb in prison” were among the sentences used to help teach word pronunciation in an Erasmus textbook used in the Anderlecht municipality of Belgium. The texts were spotted by Catherine Lemaire, a local woman currently hosting an Iraqi refugee.
Belgium’s Wallooon Region has voted to ban ritual slaughter (Jewish ‘shechitah’ and Muslim ‘halal’), forbidding any slaughter in which the animals are not stunned first. Critics call the move an attack against the “freedom of religion for Jews and Muslims.”
Jewish communities say the ban in Belgium’s southern French-speaking region violates the fundamental right to practice their faith, insisting that biblical slaughter practices (without stunning animals first to reduce their pain) means that animals have to be conscious when being killed.
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.