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france 24 Europe

Brussels attacks 'were accelerated after Abdeslam's arrest'

© Dirk Waem, AFP | The windows at Brussels international airport were blown out by two explosions in the departure hall.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-22

The attacks that occurred in Brussels on Tuesday were almost certainly planned before Friday’s arrest of Salah Abdeslam, says Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s specialist on jihadist networks.

The explosions that tore through Brussels international airport and a metro station were the realisation of fears that have been weighing on Belgian authorities since at least last November. 

They finally happened four days after the raid in Brussels’ Molenbeek neighbourhood that led to the capture of French citizen Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving militant of the group who carried out the jihadist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.

“But these attacks [in Brussels] aren’t just revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest,” said Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s specialist on jihadist networks. “These kind of attacks can’t be planned in 48 hours. It is very clear that they were well-prepared.”

However, Nasr does think that jihadists sped up the execution of the attacks after Abdeslam’s arrest.

He said they are the work of a highly organised network, composed of “distinct terrorist cells that are able to strike at different times”.

Even if one cell is “neutralised”, as was the case when Abdeslam was arrested, another is still able to carry out attacks.

“If the Islamic State (IS) group claims responsibility for these attacks, it would prove that it’s capable of organising attacks completely carried out on European soil,” Nasr added.

Belgium’s public prosecutor, who held a press conference on Tuesday morning, said that the attacks were probably carried out by suicide bombers.

“Just like the November 13 attacks in Paris,” Nasr said. “For the jihadists, this is war. They are trying to hit where they can in order to damage Western populations. They know these attacks will weigh heavily on the public and that politicians will feel the effects. The jihadists are also set on exporting the war out of traditional battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen."

As to how the European community should react, Nasr said that “air strikes in Syria or Iraq are not going to end terrorism in Europe".

Date created : 2016-03-22

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