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Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Belgium

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 May 2013
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Belgium, 30 May 2013, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Belgian authorities continued to maintain an effective counterterrorism apparatus overseen by the Ministries of Interior and Justice. The primary actors in this apparatus are the Belgian Federal Police, State Security Service, Office of the Federal Prosecutor, and the inter-ministerial Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis. In addition, the Belgian Financial Intelligence Unit oversees an efficient and comprehensive inter-agency effort to prevent terrorist financing. Belgium continued to investigate, arrest, and prosecute terrorist suspects and worked closely with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism matters. A series of public reports and statements by the Belgian Civilian Intelligence Service (BCIS) highlighted the increased threat posed by violent extremism in Belgium. The small but vocal violent extremist group Sharia4Belgium, which disbanded in September but whose members continued to be active, was cited by BCIS as a movement of particular concern.

2012 Terrorist Incidents: On March 12, a Sunni Muslim Moroccan immigrant broke into a Shia mosque in Brussels, threatened worshippers with an axe, poured gasoline on the premises, and set fire to the mosque. The imam of the mosque, Abdallah Dadou, died of smoke inhalation. The alleged perpetrator told police he attacked the mosque in retaliation against Shia-led repression of Sunnis in Syria. On June 8, Brahim Bahrir, a 34-year-old French violent extremist, stabbed and seriously wounded two Belgian police officers in a subway station in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. He was subsequently arrested. He traveled from Paris to Brussels that morning with the intent of retaliating against Belgian authorities for their handling of a June 1 incident in which a niqab-wearing woman got into a violent altercation with police officers in Molenbeek.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Belgian government has been moving slowly to implement the U.S.-Belgium Preventing and Combating Serious Crime Agreement, signed in 2011. The agreement was approved by the cabinet in December 2012, and at year's end was pending review by the Council of State before being presented to Parliament.

The Belgian order to extradite convicted terrorist Nizar Trabelsi to the United States, signed in 2011, was held up pending an appeal by Trabelsi's lawyers before the European Court of Human Rights. Trabelsi, a Tunisian national, was arrested in Belgium on September 13, 2001 and later convicted for plotting an attack on the Belgian Air Force base at Kleine Brogel, where U.S. military personnel are stationed. He remains in Belgian custody.

Other Belgian judicial actions included:

  • On February 10 and May 3, in two separate decisions, Antwerp-based judges sentenced the spokesman of the violent extremist movement Sharia4Belgium, Fouad Belkacem (alias Abu Imran), of incitement to violence and hatred for video clips in which he threatened various political figures and called on Belgian Muslims to reject democracy. On June 7, he was arrested as a result of statements he made in the wake of the June 1 altercation between police and a niqab-clad woman in Brussels that led to violent demonstrations. In the statements he called for Muslims to defend their honor and resort to violence, if necessary. On November 29 an Antwerp court sentenced him to six months imprisonment for these statements.

  • On June 25, six members of the so-called Ayachi cell were sentenced for recruiting militants to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. Their sentences ranged from three to 11 years. Their case was under appeal at year's end.

  • On October 10, police arrested seven members of a cell suspected of recruiting violent extremists to fight in Somalia.

  • On December 5, a Belgian court sentenced Hassan Hamdaoui, the figure at the center of the so-called Hamdaoui cell of 14 suspected terrorists arrested in November 2010, to five years imprisonment for attempting to participate in terrorist activities. The other 13 were acquitted for lack of evidence. Hamdaoui, a Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin, was accused of planning terrorist attacks in Belgium and seeking to fight in Chechnya.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force. Belgium's banking industry is medium sized, with assets of over $1.5 trillion dollars in 2011. According to Belgium's Financial Intelligence Unit, the Cellule de Traitement des Informations Financieres (CTIF), most of the criminal proceeds laundered in Belgium are derived from foreign criminal activity. Belgium generally has very little public corruption that contributes to money laundering and none known related to terrorist financing. According to the 2011 CTIF annual report, contraband smuggling represented 10.1 percent of all cases, while terrorist financing represented only 1.63 percent.

In 2012, there were credible reports in the Belgian media of possible ties between Hizballah and individuals under investigation in Belgium for money laundering, drug trafficking, and other activities involving the Port of Antwerp and the Antwerp diamond trade. These investigations were ongoing at year's end.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Belgium participated in EU, UN, and Council of Europe counterterrorism efforts. In addition, Belgium joined the advisory board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center in 2012. As an EU member state, Belgium has contributed trainers and capacity-building expertise to EU counterterrorism assistance programs in Sahel countries, including the Collège Sahélien de Sécurité; and the Belgian Federal Police have provided training to counterparts in the Maghreb.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis and other Belgian governmental partners took further steps to develop the "Action Plan Radicalism." One of the goals of the Action Plan is to develop measures to limit the impact of violent extremist messaging. The Ministry of Interior continued to coordinate Belgium's effort to develop a government-wide strategy to counter radicalization and violent extremism.

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