Belgian officials put Brussels on lockdown and raised the national terror alert to its highest level Tuesday after explosions went off at the international airport and at a metro station near EU government buildings, killing at least twenty-eight people (NYT). Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed that terrorists had perpetrated the attacks. Germany and France bolstered security at their borders, airports, and metro stations, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for an emergency meeting of ministers (DW). The explosions came just days after Belgian authorities arrested Salah Abdeslam, a man suspected to be the only attacker to have survived the November terrorist attacks in Paris.
“Despite Belgium’s maximum terror-alert level, tracking down the remnants of the jihadist network will not be easy—in part because the outlines of the network are more and more blurred. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January, 2015, intelligence experts have warned that jihadists have tapped into Mafia-type organized crime, with highly sophisticated smuggling operations, for logistics support like transporting people, issuing fake identity papers or selling weapons,” writes Vivienne Walt for TIME.
“A country which regards itself as supremely international has becomedysfunctionally preoccupied with parish politics. Add to this the fact that Belgium has long been a clearing house for illegal arms deals and that its geographical situation makes it a perfect launch-pad for attacks on neighbouring countries,” writes John Lichfield for the Independent.
“The terrorists’ goals were threefold. First was the propaganda coup of dominating the world’s headlines for several days, distracting from news of the setback of the arrest of Salah Abdeslam. Second, if the attacks were already being planned, the terrorists might have feared that Abdeslam was spilling information under interrogation from Belgian authorities and decided to act quickly. Last, they aim to inspire other young Europeans to support jihadists. Though IS appears to be weakening in Syria and Iraq, its ideas continue to inspire young men to strike fear at the heart of Europe,” writes the Economist.
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