Belgium charges man with attempted ‘terrorist murder’

  • AFP, Brussels
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2016 02:33 IST
File photo of a police officer standing behind a van during a police intervention in central Brussels on July 20, 2016, to surround a "suspect" individual. Authorities charged a man over an alleged plot to launch a new attack in Belgium on July 30, 2016. (AFP)

Belgian authorities on Saturday charged a man over an alleged plot to launch a new attack in Belgium as Europe remained on edge following a wave of jihadist bloodshed in France and Germany.

An investigating judge charged Nourredine H, 33, with attempting to commit “terrorist murder” and “taking part in the activities of a terrorist organisation,” the federal prosecutor’s office said.

It said the charges come in the “case opened concerning a possible terrorist attack in Belgium.”

He was arrested along with his brother Hamza H following raids on Friday in Belgium’s French-speaking areas of Mons and Liege, but Hamza was released Saturday without charge, the office said in a statement.

It had said earlier that both were “suspected of planning a terrorist attack somewhere in Belgium,” but gave no other details.

The prosecutor’s office said there was for now no link to the suicide bombings on March 22 at Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union headquarters that left 32 people dead.

Those attacks were claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group that holds swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

No weapons or explosives were found in Friday’s raids, seven in the Mons area and one in Liege, that were ordered by a judge specialising in counter-terror cases, it said.

But Belgium’s French-language broadcaster RTBF reported earlier it had information that one of the brothers had been searching for weapons and other “material.”

He had served in the past as a logistics man for jihadists leaving for and returning from the Middle East, it added.

Jihadist springboard

Belgium is the main source per head of population of jihadist recruits going from the European Union to fight with IS in Syria, causing deep concern that they will return home battle-hardened and even more radicalised.

The interior ministry said 457 Belgian men and women have gone or tried to join jihadists in the Middle East, including 90 who are missing or dead.

Belgium launched its first attacks against IS in Iraq in late 2014 as part of a US-led coalition. It joined a similar anti-IS operation in Syria this year.

Several of those involved in the Brussels bloodshed in March were directly linked to the November 13 bombing and gun attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and were also claimed by IS.

Belgian authorities last month charged two men with terrorist offences amid reports of a planned attack on a Euro 2016 fanzone in central Brussels.

Belgium then beefed up security for its July 21 national day celebrations after the truck attack that killed 84 people in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day, July 14.

The authorities in Belgium, which hosts the headquarters of the 28-nation EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, had previously anticipated a possible truck-style attack before the Nice carnage.

In less than two weeks in July, IS jihadists claimed four bloody assaults in France and Germany.

Experts say each attack can inspire others, with jihadists egged on further by the media spotlight the atrocities attract.

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