The two people in their early twenties from the Limburg province who were arrested on Friday in an investigation into far-right terrorism are thought to be linked to The Base, a neo-Nazi group founded in the US in 2018 that wants to create "a white ethnostate" through violence.
During house searches in Limburg and West Flanders on Friday, the authorities arrested Daan C. (23) and Kayley W. (20) on suspicion of preparing terrorist activities.
Numerous Nazi objects, including flags and swastikas, were found during the searches, as well as indications that the suspects were active on various right-wing extremist encrypted online platforms, according to the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office.
Daan C. was arrested as part of an international action against far-right terrorism. Kayley W. – possibly his girlfriend – was also arrested, but has since been released on conditions, De Standaard reports.
There is a strong suspicion that the two are linked to The Base, a right-wing extremist group known in the United States and Canada, which exists largely online and tries to connect small cells and individuals all over the world.
Creating a 'white ethnostate'
"It is one of the newer generation of neo-Nazi groups that mainly exist online," Annelies Pauwels, a terrorism researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute, told De Morgen. "They use accelerationism, which pursues chaos and a race war with the ultimate goal of replacing democracy with a white ethnostate. It is a group known to glorify violence."
According to social media posts, The Base was founded around the summer of 2018 by Rinaldo Nazzaro, who at that time was already promoting the creation of a so-called "white ethnostate" on the western border of the United States and Canada. He did this under the pseudonym Norman Spear, while also posting instructional videos on urban warfare.
With the group, he wanted to gather like-minded people for his "accelerationist approach," which is based on the idea that violence should provoke more violence. Once the current society has been violently overthrown, something new – such as the "white ethnostate" that Nazzaro dreamed of – can arise, he said.
While The Base is not widely known, it does not need a lot of popularity to achieve that, according to research by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Center is an American non-profit organisation that stands up for civil rights and conducts research into hate groups.
"Groups like The Base want to inspire a small number of actors to support their revolutionary ideas and act accordingly. Either by forming small, secret terror cells, or by carrying out attacks as a lone actor," they stated in an analysis of the group.
Based on the information released by Europol about Friday's searches and arrests (which started as a Belgian investigation in May but now also led to searches in Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, Romania and Italy), The Base exists primarily online. "The suspects used an online platform for terrorism-related activities, such as spreading violent and extremist propaganda, recruiting new members and sharing manuals for 3D printed weapons."
After founding The Base, Nazzaro urged his followers not to make it primarily an online initiative, but to turn the ideas into action. A training camp to learn how to use firearms was organised, for example, and leaflets with messages such as 'Save your race, join The Base' were distributed on the street.
First time in Belgium
The American authorities have been able to thwart several attacks in recent years, and the recent police intervention in Europe on Friday was needed because the risk of an attack in Croatia was urgent, Het Laatste Nieuws reports.
In total, five suspects were apprehended and seven others were interrogated across the different countries. Data carriers and weapons were also seized. "Despite the young age of some of the suspects, indicators showed that there was an increased risk that some of them would take action soon," Europol said.
Experts suspect that support for The Base in Western Europe is not large. With Friday's arrests, the group's name has come up for the first time in a judicial investigation in Belgium, but that does not mean that Belgians have not been active on its forums. In the Netherlands, two young men were convicted for joining the group in 2021.
Founder Nazzaro is said to have moved from the US to Russia with his wife and children. Under his pseudonym Norman Spear, he has always defended violence on social media.