Tuesday 20 March 2018

Belgium to hire 1,000 more police to combat radicalism

Jan Jambon says 300 new officers will be added this year (AP)
Jan Jambon says 300 new officers will be added this year (AP)

The Belgian government has approved a plan to combat Islamic radicalism and extremist violence by hiring 1,000 new police officers over the next four years.

The plan, presented by interior minister Jan Jambon, calls for 300 new officers this year, and more than 500 by 2017.

Mr Jambon said 300 new officers will be added in Molenbeek and other neighbourhoods with a history of radical Islam. Ninety-six police investigators will also be hired, and 260 TV cameras will be positioned to monitor movements on the roads.

The November attacks that killed 130 people in Paris were staged from neighbouring Belgium, and an official investigation revealed how ineffective the surveillance of suspected radicals in the country has often been.

Four of the Paris attackers, including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaooud, lived in the Brussels area of Molenbeek, one of eight areas covered by the government's initiative.

Belgium has been one of the prime European recruiting grounds for foreign fighters enlisted by the Islamic State extremist group.

On Monday, the prime ministers of Belgium and France and their top justice, police and intelligence officials held an extraordinary meeting in Brussels and agreed to step up co-operation in the counter-terrorism field.

Under the new Belgian security plan, special attention is being paid to Molenbeek and seven other districts in the greater Brussels area that have produced large numbers of Muslim extremists and radicals. Prime minister Charles Michel said 300 of the new police hires would be sent to those neighbourhoods.

Mr Michel said the security upgrade would cost 300 million euros (£230 million).

Molenbeek became the symbol of the presence of Muslim radicalism in Belgium and the inability of authorities to stamp it out. Mr Jambon said 50 of the new police officers will quickly be deployed there.

Law enforcement personnel will also be reinforced at airports and on the country's North Sea coast. Mr Michel told a joint news conference with Mr Jambon that 103 new hires will be made in the Belgian state security services.

Mr Jambon said priorities will be combating the foreign fighter phenomenon; shutting down illegal commerce in firearms, drugs and forged documents that is often linked to extremists; drying up other sources of revenue; and fighting attempts to radicalise Belgians, including through mosques or prayer rooms.

Press Association

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