The Belgian police are increasingly becoming the target of extremist threats, according to the latest annual report by the Ministry of Justice's Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment (OCAD, Coördinatieorgaan voor de dreigingsanalyse),
The government study has found that there was "a significant increase in the number of threats against police services in the last quarter of 2022". OCAD pointed to the fatal stabbing of 29-year-old police officer Thomas Monjoie by an Islamic extremist last November as a particularly vivid illustration of the growing dangers faced by Belgium's police force.
"Such a tragic event has an impact on the number of threats received," OCAD noted. "At the root of this increase is, among other things, increased vigilance and the so-called copycat effect, in which potential perpetrators are inspired by an incident that has taken place. Whether or not this trend will continue in the future is being closely monitored."
A variety of dangers
Although threats made against police officers have risen considerably, OCAD also noted that the overall number of extremist or terrorist threats made last year was in fact slightly lower than in 2021 (215 compared to 218).
The most common targets were specific individuals, followed by the police and army, politicians, public institutions, the general public, and specific communities. The threats were most often issued via social media or through messaging applications.
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OCAD further noted that the vast majority of threats were made by lone actors, while only 20% were issued by multiple individuals.
Jihadist or Islamic extremist threats were by far the most common, representing one third of the total number of threats made. Just under a tenth of the threats were issued by right-wing extremists, while the number of left-wing extremist threats "remained limited".
A significant majority (60%) of the threats were deemed to be of a "low level" of severity, while a third were judged to be of an "average" level. Less than a tenth were considered "serious". The general threat level remained "average" throughout the year.