Please do not disturb Europe’s most wanted man

The Washington Post reports: According to Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens, just two days after the Paris attacks [Salah] Abdeslam [Europe’s “most wanted man”] was “likely in a flat in Molenbeek.” But because of the country’s penal code, which prohibits raids between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless a crime is in progress or in case of fire, police were ordered to wait until dawn to pursue him. By then, Abdeslam was nowhere to be seen. [Abdeslam was captured last Friday.]

Despite warnings that Belgium could be a target of terrorist attacks, security at the Brussels airport was inadequate. In the beginning of this year, a Belgian union expressed alarm at findings of tests run at the airport to detect bombs in carry-on luggage. In one round of tests, half the bombs were not detected, according to Christina Schori ­Liang, a senior fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

The inspectors also revealed that fences around the airport had holes that were not repaired for months, Liang said. The ­security-clearance process was found to so be lax, she added, that employees could begin working without waiting for the process to conclude. It can take up to three months.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has been a transit point for young Europeans drawn to the Islamic State, said one of Tuesday’s attackers — he did not say which — was arrested in his country last summer and deported back to Europe.

The Turkish official said the president was referring to Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who was stopped at the Syrian border. Asked whether Belgian officials were notified, the official said, “Yes, they knew.”

On Wednesday, Geens, the justice minister, confirmed that officials were aware that Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who had a record of violent crime, had been expelled by the Turks to the Netherlands after trying to enter Syria. Speaking to a local radio station, he declined to say whether officials knew he had reentered Belgium. But he seemed to suggest that the attempt to enter Syria did not indicate a special threat.

“At that moment, he was not known for terrorism, but as a criminal,” Geens said.

Analysts say Belgium’s terrorism problem goes beyond security issues and includes social divides related not only to linguistic barriers but also to incorporating waves of Muslim immigrants in recent decades. Immigrants and their children maintain that they are ostracized and find it more difficult to get jobs.

Belgian youth born outside the European Union had an unemployment rate of 43.6 percent in 2014, compared with a rate of 23.2 percent for Belgian-born youth. [Continue reading…]

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