Why Did ISIS Target Belgium?

Within a space of one hour, Belgium’s capital city Brussels was targeted twice. First attack took place at the departure hall of Brussels airport, the second attack took place in a metro train at Maelbeek.

Belgium’s security forces have made steady strides in anti-terror ops. Only days before the attacks, security forces made decisive inroads in uprooting the terror network that was involved in Paris attacks. A notable terrorist Mohammed Belkaid was killed in a police raid last week.


Zaventem airport, where first bomb struck at 8AM/ PHOTO: Getty

A couple of days later, Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks was arrested. The Belgian authorities delightfully announced their achievements. The government believed it had broken the spine of the terrorist network involved in the Paris attacks.

A survivor of the Paris attacks / PHOTO: Reuters

A survivor of the Paris attacks / PHOTO: Reuters

Is that the reason why Brussels was targeted? Was the impression of disabling the terror network premature?

When Abdeslam was arrested, it was rumored that he would co-operate with the Belgium’s justice department. No one knows if the news is credible. Even if it were, was it a good move to release such news to public? Did media play an irresponsible part?

It is likely that the same ISIS Paris attacker network hurriedly decided to execute their Brussels’ plan. But surely attacks like that would’ve require months to plan. So it is possible that the attacks were already planned and Abdeslam’s arrest fast-forwarded everything.

31 people were killed and 271 injured in the country’s most deadly terror attacks. Doctors who treated these patients say that shrapnel used in the bombs had caused terrifying injuries to some people.

Strategically speaking, the attacks echoed ISIS’s patterns of their previous attacks:

ISIS followed one of their common strategies, deployed in earlier attacks:

  • March 2015 – the Bardo museum attack in Tunis that killed 22 people
  • June 2015 – the Sousse beach resort attack in Tunisia which took lives of 38 people.
  • October 2015 – the deadly attack on the Russian airliner in Sinai in that killed 224 people.
  • November 2015 – the Paris attacks in which 130 died

The ultimate score was to kill as many people as they could. But more than casualties, ISIS is after “tawahhush” meaning chaos. It was a philosophy preached by Al-Qaeda’s leader Abu Bakr Naji. ISIS wants to create chaos in a society – the more chaos, the more profit for ISIS’s operations.


Belgian police has carried out various raids to arrest suspects. / PHOTO: Yves Herman / Reuters

Their strategy is to create a solid divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Samuel Huntington, American conservative political scientist, described this as “clash of civilization” – ISIS hopes to exactly achieve that.

According to historian and terror scientist Pieter Van Ostaeyen, there is a general feeling of Islam-hatred amongst the Belgian Muslims. The full-face veil covering, the restrictions on animal-slaughtering and Azaan (the Muslim calling for prayers on the loud-speaker) have led some citizens to believe that they are second class citizens.

ISIS has capitalized on this idea. The terror group has brainwashed many Belgium nationals to either flee the country to go to Syria or become part of local terror groups. Some of these terror groups include Sharia4Belgium and Khalid Zerkani group.

Belgium has fought the terror groups quiet admirably and always seemed to be one step ahead. However, the neighboring countries may not have done their job. It is accused that France, UK and Netherlands have not properly coordinated with Belgium on the terror issue.

It is likely that more attacks will follow this one. We have to learn from the pasts and work together to eliminate the threat of terrorism. Improving intelligence sharing between Belgium and France holds the key in uprooting ISIS from central Europe.



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