Before and after
It was a fine Tuesday morning in Brussels as the roads, metros and airport were thronged by bustling crowds. A bomb blast, shortly followed by another one, shook the Brussels Airport. Just when authorities were responding to the attack, they were informed of another explosion at Maalbeek Metro Station.
The suicide attacks killed 31 people while wounding another 270. ISIS took responsibility of the attack and warned of many more to come. Two persons who blew themselves up at the airport were identified as Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui. The Metro Station attacker was identified as brother of Ibrahim, Khaalid.
The Brussels attacks shocked the whole world, especially the Belgian authorities who had achieved success in disbanding the terrorist network involved in the Paris attacks.
Mohammed Belkaid, who was said to be the ringleader of the group which planned and executed the Paris attacks, was shot dead in a police raid, followed by the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, another key suspect.
It was suspected that the network responsible for Paris attacks planned the recent attacks as well and recent raids triggered them to go ahead with them. The suspicion was confirmed when Najim Laachraoui was identified as one of the three bombers. Belgian police had announced him as one of the main suspects behind the Paris attacks just a day before he blew himself up.
For long, Belgium has been a hotbed for Islamist terrorists as many have reportedly joined ISIS in Syria. Highlighting the state of affairs, BBC reported: “The most active networks in Belgium were Sharia4Belgium (with 79 ex-members in Syria or Iraq) and the Islamist cell around Khalid Zerkani (45 recruits including some of the Paris attackers).”
Of all 19 municipalities of Brussels, Molenbeek has come across as the most troubled one. Alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, both lived here. One of the attackers of Charlie Hebdo is said to have bought weapons from this area. Intelligence authorities have traced many other terrorists to this district.
This, combined with almost dysfunctional law enforcement agencies, has led to Belgium to this point. “The Belgian security services, as well as other Western intelligence agencies, had advance and precise intelligence warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Belgium on Tuesday,” Haaretz reported. Despite such precise information, the attackers achieved their target. Why? The answer lies in the incompetence of Belgian police.
The attack drew a strong reaction from across the world as condemnations started pouring. Speaking from Cuba, Obama said: “This is yet another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.”
The British prime minister, while talking to The Guardian, said: “They could just as well be attacks in Britain or in France or Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, and we need to stand together against these appalling terrorists.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin called it ‘a barbaric crime’, adding ‘the attack confirms once again that terrorism knows no borders and threatens people all over the world,”
However, an interesting hashtag #StopIslam started trending worldwide on Twitter right after the attacks. The trend contained tweets from all parts of the world, expressing outrage against the attacks while putting blame on the whole Muslim community. Instead of what could have been constructive criticism of the Muslim quarters who are responsible for such attacks, such sweeping generalisations created feelings of disdain among ‘moderate Muslims’.
Cashing in on the sentiments, US Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz demanded resumption of surveillance programs to target Muslim neighbourhoods. Many European countries have enacted legislation on increasing the surveillance of Muslim neighbourhoods.
Maajid Mehmud, a Research Fellow working with Pakistani Think Tank CISS, believes it will have a bad impact on helpless refugees coming from war-torn Syria, North Africa and Afghanistan. “Brussels attack will strengthen European governments’ resolve to enact harsher measures in dealing with poor refugees,” he said.
Syria, for long, has been the centre of western attention due to the civil war. The equation in Syria has been a complex one due to the proxy wars. US and European countries, with their anti-Assad agenda, helped rebels with arms and funding which many reports suggest went in the hands of al-Nusra Front –al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria which is mostly sponsored by Arab countries. Russia and Iran, on the other hand, support the Assad regime and in doing so attack west-supported rebels. Both these groups have a common enemy – ISIS. Although both claim to hit ISIS as the primary target, they are working to accomplish their own agendas.
“Brussels attacks can be a catalyst for increased European political activism over the Syrian crisis especially influencing the ongoing negotiations between the Assad regime and some opposition elements, which are influenced by Russia and United States while Europe has till now been on sidelines rather than a proactive player,” said Mehmud while explaining the whole scenario.
While opinions differ on how the Muslim world must act, Maajid Mehmud thinks they should not be on the bandwagon of the western narrative.
“The slogans like ‘Fight against terrorism’ conceal the real political agenda of sustaining repressive regimes in the Arab world against popular dissent and uprisings,” he added.
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