Thursday 14 December 2017

The extremist strategy that thrives on chaos and disorder

A woman consoles her children at a street memorial following Tuesday’s bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium
A woman consoles her children at a street memorial following Tuesday’s bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium

Mary Fitzgerald

Anyone familiar with Brussels knows it is really several cities in one. There is the affluent Brussels that houses the shiny headquarters of the EU, Nato and other international bodies.

And there is the Brussels of districts like Molenbeek, the hardscrabble area that was home both to the bombers that struck the Belgian capital this week and many of those who attacked Paris last November. Just days before the blasts that targeted Brussels' airport and metro system on Tuesday, killing dozens, police arrested Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive from the Paris attacks, in Molenbeek where he had apparently managed to hide out for months.

The west Brussels borough is a densely populated area blighted by unemployment, particularly among the children or grandchildren of North African immigrants, most of them from Morocco, who made the area their home several decades ago. Disaffection has pulled some of the district's youth into criminality, others have been drawn to Isil and other extremist groups.

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