The director of the federal office for risk assessment, Paul Van Tigchelt, has warned of the likelihood of copycat attacks following the murder of three people in May in Liege by Benjamin Herman. Van Tigchelt, the country’s senior anti-terrorism officer, said the chance of others being inspired by the example of Herman – who was shot dead by police after killing two police officers and a passer-by – was a “certainty”.
Since the Liege attacks, his office, OCAM/OCAD, has received 35% more reports of suspicious activity than usual. On 1 June, two days immediately following the killings, OCAM/OCAD received 163 tips – four times more than on any given day before the attacks. The reports come from members of the public, police and prison officers, and youth and social workers.
“We evaluate the credibility of each report as quickly as possible,” he told De Morgen in an interview. “Fortunately, most of the information provides no reason to move to risk level 4, but you can never take the risk,” he said.
“The danger of copycat behaviour is certain. The human psyche is made that way: unstable people often don’t require much to make them pass to the act.”
As an example, he pointed to London, which last year saw four attacks in a row, following years of quiet since the murder of an Army soldier in 2013. “Apparently copycat behaviour was at play. Absolute security has now become a complete illusion.”