Terrorists attack subway, airport in Brussels

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.17.48 AM

Terrorists struck an international airport in Brussels and a subway station not far from the European Union’s headquarters earlier today. Initial casualty reports indicate that at least 34 people were killed and approximately 170 more were injured. Two explosions reportedly rocked the Brussels Airport and a third bomb was detonated at the Maelbeek station in downtown Brussels.

The Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State, has issued a claim of responsibility on its social media sites. The claim can be seen above.

“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital Brussels, a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State,” Amaq’s statement reads in English.

Later, the Islamic State issued a formal statement claiming bombings on its Twitter and Telegram sites, and threatened further attacks.

“A group of the soldiers of the Caliphate, wrapped in explosive belts and carrying explosive devices and machine guns, launched to target sites carefully chosen in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, to immerse inside Brussels airport and the metro station and kill a number of Crusaders, before detonating their explosive belts amidst their groupings,” the Islamic State said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the statement.

“We promise the Crusader states allied against the Islamic State with dark days, in response to their aggression against the Islamic State, and what is coming is worse and more bitter,” the group threatened.

Today’s attacks in Belgium took place just four days after Belgian and French police arrested Salah Abdeslam, an Islamic State operative who is suspected of providing logistical support and explosives manufacturing for the terrorist team responsible for the Nov. 13, 2015 coordinated attacks in Paris. Another suspect, Mohamed Belkaid, was killed in a shootout during the raid in Brussels that netted Abdelslam.

The Islamic State has long targeted Belgium. And today’s attacks emphasize the persistent threats Europeans face.

After the assault in Paris, French President François Hollande explained that the massacre was “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, [and] perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” Belgium was a key operational hub for that attack and other terrorist plots. The Islamic State has repeatedly said that Belgium is in its crosshairs.

European counterterrorism officials identified a Belgian man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, as a key figure in the Paris attacks. Abaaoud was subsequently killed during a raid by French authorities, but his network continues to pose a threat to France, Belgium and other European nations. Known terrorists such as Abaaoud and his comrades are slipping through the cracks because European officials are being forced to investigate more threats than ever.

French officials linked Abaaoud to two other plots in France earlier in the 2015. According to the Associated Press, Abaaoud is thought to have been involved in an attack on a Paris-bound train and another on a church in the suburbs of Paris.

Despite his involvement in these plots, Abaaoud continued to operate in Europe. And he did not keep a low profile. The Islamic State interviewed Abaaoud in the seventh issue of its English-language magazine Dabiq, which was released in February 2015. [See LWJ report, Key suspect in Paris attacks has been featured in Islamic State propaganda.]

The cover of Dabiq 7 mocked Muslims who stood in unity with France over al Qaeda’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015. Dabiq described Abaaoud as “a mujahid being pursued by Western Intelligence agencies for his jihad in Belgium.” Two members of Abaaoud’s cell were killed in a shootout with Belgian police during a raid on their safe house in Verviers on Jan. 15, 2015, just one week after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices.

In his interview with Dabiq, Abaaoud admitted that he and two accomplices, “Abuz-Zubayr al-Baljīkī (Khālid), and Abū Khālid al-Baljīkī (Sufyān),” traveled to Europe “in order to terrorize the crusaders waging war against the Muslims.”

Abaaoud said Belgium was a target as the country “is a member of the crusader coalition attacking the Muslims of Iraq and Shām [Syria].”

After some difficulties in traveling to Belgium, the three jihadists “were then able to obtain weapons and set up a safe house while we planned to carry out operations against the crusaders,” he claimed.

Abaaoud mocked Western intelligence services for failing to prevent him from entering Belgium and establish a cell, and then later failing to capture him after the Verviers raid.

“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave and come to Shām despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he stated. “All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence. My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

Abaaoud said he was stopped by security officials after the Verviers raid and police failed to match him with a photograph of him that was obtained while he was in Syria.

“I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance,” he said.

Regardless of whether or not Abaaoud’s account is entirely accurate, it is clear that the Islamic State’s network in Europe has been able to launch attacks even though its operatives are sometimes well-known in Western counterterrorism and intelligence circles.

Belgian authorities have repeatedly warned that their country could be attacked at any time. After the raid on Abaaoud’s cell in Verviers, Belgian federal magistrate Eric Van der Sypt said the Islamic State was “on the verge of committing important terror attacks,” the AP reported. Van der Sypt added, “It shows we have to be extremely careful.”

An Islamic State fighter succeeded in executing an attack in Belgium in May 2014. Mehdi Nemmouche, a fighter who worked in the Islamic State’s jails in Syria, opened fire at a Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four people.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Tags: , , , ,

12 Comments

  • Arjuna says:

    All these warnings, all these alerts, all the extra police and soldiers and they still hit two of the most obvious targets in Brussels w operatives likely known to the security services. Looks like Telegram was in use. Smells like they were using encrypted comms. Again. Timmy Cook, are you feeling groovy?

    • Arjuna says:

      Heard Paris and Brussels attackers were using PlayStation to communicate w each other and Syria. Watch those games, folks.

  • Chuck says:

    When will these gutless wonders open season on everyone of these heathen bastards. No bag limit, bonus prize is a mouth full of pork guts for the dead.

  • Ken North says:

    The insidious danger here is that national leadership and the public at large will remain distracted, downplaying the assuredly consistent warnings about al Qaeda emanating from Centcom, Africom, and the intelligence community as a whole.

    Al Qaeda clearly remains in play as the detailed reporting at the LWJ underscores with its penetrating coverage of al Nusrah, AQIM, AQAP, and al Shabaab. All of these entities routinely absorb devastating strikes and resiliently rebound with their deep bench.

    At a time and place of their choosing, AQ will trump these IS forays with even stronger and more imaginary attack(s) to reassert their authority and primacy in the global jihadi order.

    London will not be a place to linger in 2016.

    • Arjuna says:

      Clapper says ISIL is the number one threat; Brennan says AQ. Lisa Monaco is looking for homes for terrorists and Kerry is trying to arm and accommodate them.

      Glad we have such a fragmented, conflicted USG. Must make it easier for President Pinprick to hold back. It’s like arguing over whether the Japanese or Germans were the bigger threat. Both groups need elimination as they both represent existential threats.

  • ulises says:

    NOW THE BELGIUM CAPITAL IS UNDER ATTACK FROM THE SAME ORGANIZATION CAN PLANNED THE NOVEMBER,13,2015 ATTACKS AGAINST PARIS,FRANCE.WHO IS IS NEXT COUNTRY ATTACKED FOR ISLAMIC-STATE?

  • fern says:

    I lived most of my life in Brussels except maybe 8 years and I’m gonna be 68 in May.
    Belgium has taken in many foreigners to come and work here since no Belgian wanted to work the coal mines so after the German POWs left they were replaced by Ities (Italians) and of course they were poor people and were not accepted by the general population, the same happened with the Spaniards. Nobody liked them as they were foreigners, many others moved in and they all had the worst possible jobs and whenever they managed to receive the an education it was the lowest possible. I myself was directed to this lowest education and trained to work in a factory or construction, I myself was trained in such a school being poor and from a bad neighborhood.
    Molenbeek St. Jean, used to be a low working class neighborhood were crime was rife like the area were I was brought up ‘Marolles’ and when the Moroccans moved in I saw
    The same is happening to the Morrocans looking for jobs in Brussels except that they were also culturally different and more violent and quick to react so much so that the police avoided them as they were scared. In the early nineties I was in M St Jean and it looked to me like the Kasba in Algiers (I was there in ’75).

    When the Russians entered Afghanistan the normal American attitude was let’s scr.. the Russkoffs and gather Jihadists so in countries like Belgium, France and Germany a blind eye was turned to extreme Islamic mosque and teachings so jihadist could move to Afghanistan. The Belgian attitude has always been avoid confrontation so the mosques stayed and the “education” continued unchecked. Now Belgium is paying the price.

    • pollewol says:

      Do not forget the politicly correct elite who made it impossible to criticise the import of Islam to Belgium.

      • fern says:

        P. C. has nothing to do with ! the fight in Belgium (like in the US) is to find cheap labor. Since the end of WWII no Belgians wanted to work the mines and wanted higher wages, so the government supporting the beleaguered mining companies owner invited poor rural Italians, then the Spanish and many others to a lesser degree and all these people stuck together by nationalities and would create ghettos and with the years they integrated simply because most were Roman Catholics and had a cultural closeness albeit different from the Belgian, the main problem was lowly educated Belgians confronting the invading foreigners also lowly educated. Then they invited the Moroccans, a mistake, when “all the others” went to a church, the Muslims wanted a Mosque… They were more violent and quicker to react and at one point the police avoided confrontation since it could result in a riot and so the situation worsened and Molenbeek reminded me of a part of Marseille and the Casbah in Algier. Most of these people are rejected by the Belgian society especially the young ones and their expectation is to work, factory, construction or anything else in between. These people are easy prey for manipulators

  • Kate says:

    It would be interesting to read LWJ’s assessment of the threat in Europe.

  • Arjuna says:

    They wanted the biggest nuclear plant in Belgium. Kidnap the head of Belgium’s nuclear program to access the facility, place four suitcase bombs at strategic locations around the plant and BOOM > meltdown. Fukushima made to look like a picnic. Cost to clean up? Massive. Trillions. They planned this party from Raqqa where we won’t harm “civilians”
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3507417/Brussels-bombers-DID-plan-attack-nuclear-power-station-police-uncover-12-hours-footage-jihadists-filmed-outside-plant-director-s-home.html

    • fern says:

      I don’t think you know what you’re talking about first BOOM is a town and Silly is another town in Belgium take the town that fits you.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis