Belgian anti-terror unit discloses amount of extremists under surveillance

Belgian anti-terror unit discloses amount of extremists under surveillance
Gert Vercauteren. Credit: Coordination Body for Threat Analysis

As part of Belgium's strategy against extremism and terrorism, priority monitoring is being carried out on 624 jihadists, 64 right-wing extremists and 14 left-wing extremists, said Belgium's Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA) in a statement on Friday.

According to the unit, last year in Belgium 218 terrorist or extremism reports were filed. "The threat has become much more diffuse in recent years," said Gert Vercauteren, director of the CUTA.

Vercauteren's statement comes just a few days after the trial of the March 2016 Brussels terrorist attack began, which killed 32 people and injured over 300. It was the deadliest attack in Belgium during peacetime.

"A third came from a jihadist ideology and just over a tenth from right-wing extremism," reads the statement from CUTA. "Several threats came from abroad, with some regimes targeting alleged opponents in Belgium. The threat linked to left-wing extremism remained limited."

Terrorist threat level 2

The terrorist threat against Belgium has been on level 2 from a scale of 4 since January 2018. Since then, terrorist threats have come mainly from so-calledl lone wolves who have been radicalised by jihadist ideology although they themselves have never been to Syria or Iraq.

Although the terrorist threat has been reduced since the period between 2015-2017 when a series of terrorist attacks hit Europe, Vercauteren cautions vigilance.

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"Nothing invites us to rest on our laurels," stressed Vercauteren, referring to a recent incident in Schaerbeek which killed a police officer. A potential perpetrator who wants to undertake violent action alone can be difficult to identify, Vercauteren added.

"Besides ideology, other factors may also come into play, such as personal grievances, certain symbolic events or even psychological problems. "

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