Terrorist attacks in Brussels

A series of attacks in Brussels at the end of March left at least 34 people dead and 230 injured. The IS terrorist organisation has assumed responsibility for the attacks at Brussels Airport and in a metro station. A majority of commentators call for a calm response to the attacks and stress that terrorism must be fought at its root.

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Expressen (SE) /

Victims paid for Sweden's inaction

Osama Krayem, a Swedish citizen who was arrested on Friday, is one of the suspects in the investigations into the Brussels attacks. Another suspected terrorist who was shot by the Belgian police a few days ago also had close ties to Sweden. The liberal daily Dagens Nyheter criticises Sweden's lack of action in the fight against radical Islamism:

“The threat posed by jihadism's readiness to use violence was played down. … With the result that for a long time the politicians in Malmö refused to put together a plan of action [against radicalisation]. … The terrorists themselves bear the responsibility for their atrocious deeds. But in the aftermath one is compelled to ask how many of the jihadists' victims could have been saved if society had taken quicker and more decisive action to prevent radicalisation. And incidentally, Osama Krayem grew up in [the Malmö suburb of] Rosengård.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

IS propaganda falls on fertile ground

Most of the terrorists involved in the Brussels and Paris attacks come from families that left the Maghreb region several generations ago. Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun explains in the centre-left daily La Repubblica how IS propaganda turns them into terrorists:

“Most of the children of migrants suffer from a sense of existential insecurity, but they don't resort to weapons to kill innocent people. This is where the Islamic State with its fiendish propaganda comes in. … It promises Europe's forgotten sons a glorious future; it offers them a way out, a goal. … It says: you have found no purpose in your life but I propose that you give your death a purpose by fighting 'in the cause of Allah' (fi sabilillah), which leads to paradise. It depicts the West as purely materialistic and devoid of spirituality or divine values. … The sons of migrants listen to these speeches. They believe them and act on them”

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Público (PT) /

Dry up terrorists' funding sources

The top priority now should be to deprive global terrorism of its funding sources, the liberal daily Público demands:

“Shock, condemnation, compassion and solidarity: as in the aftermath of the Paris attacks we are experiencing an almost unanimous wave of these emotions against the acts of terror that have struck at the very heart of Belgium - and symbolically at the heart of the EU. But this cycle in which the brutality of terror and the pain of the victims alternates with expressions of international solidarity and the tightening of security measures will be repeated endlessly if the problem isn't finally tackled at its roots. In particular as regards an aspect that is often mentioned but hardly ever addressed seriously and effectively: drying up the funding sources of these terrorist groups which are covered up by a complex mesh of interests and which have been spared for the most part so far.”

Novi list (HR) /

Learning to live with terror

The best weapon against terror is patience, the centre-left daily Novi list believes:

“In the fight against terrorism, the people of Europe must learn to live with terror - but not to get used to it, which would be a terrible defeat. For many people it would not be the first time: to a certain extent the British learned to live with terrorism in the days of the IRA, the Spanish with the Eta, the Italians with the Red Brigades, and the Germans with the RAF. All of these experiences have shown that patience is an important weapon against terror. It may sound cynical to come to terms with a life with terrorism - and in addition to show patience - but that's just the way things are. ... The fight against terror will last until the soil out of which terrorism grows has dried up. And as this soil no longer lies within Europe's societies, that could take a long time.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Deploy troops against the IS

Tightening counter-terrorism laws won't help because Islamist terror must be fought at its roots with military means, British journalist Bill Emmott urges in the liberal daily La Stampa:

“This can't be done through sporadic strikes against sensitive Islamic State targets. … But it can be done if the European governments make it clear to the Obama administration that adopting a leading role in a military campaign during Obama's last year in office is worth the risk. The goal is clear: to show that the Islamic State is the loser, a force that is in decline. … Military defeats would rob it of its appeal. … This can only be achieved by sending in real troops, in consultation with the Arab states, that are capable of inflicting these defeats on the IS. Not a pretty prospect, true, but the alternative is further terrorist attacks in European cities.”

The Independent (GB) /

Paying for the Belgian state's failures

The years of tension between Belgium's different regions have done much to weaken the country, the centre-left daily The Independent contends:

“In the past two decades, parts of the federal Belgian state have fallen into chaos and disrepair as real political power, and patronage, passed to the language-based regional structures of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Co-operation between police forces, and between police and intelligence and security forces, has become a standing joke. The festering radicalism of Muslim-dominated boroughs in Brussels, like Molenbeek, went unchallenged. … Ultra-nationalists in France and anti-Europeans in Britain can point to Belgium as an example of what happens if a strong sense of national identity dies and strong national institutions fail.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Weakened IS more dangerous

The Brussels attacks are the consequence of the military victories against the terrorist Islamic State, the conservative daily Die Presse believes:

“In Syria and in Iraq [the IS] has lost vast areas. It has retreated to its strongholds Raqqa and Mossul to wait for the counter-offensive of Kurdish units and the Iraqi army. But the more the IS falls behind on the battlefields the more it will try to attack 'soft targets' - or in other words carry out attacks in Europe. This strategy aims to divert attention from its defeats and maintain its appeal for foreign fighters. … In Europe greater efforts must be made to stop young men and women from joining extremist groups. And the authorities must be prepared for further attacks because the IS is fighting for survival in Syria and Iraq. And this could make it even more dangerous in Europe than it was before.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Pan-European response to attacks needed

The series of attacks in Brussels is aimed at all of Europe, the centre-left weekly magazine L'Obs is convinced, and urges the European states to deliver a joint and vigorous response:

“No country has sufficient financial or military resources to act alone. ... Faced with a common threat, Europe must come up with a joint response. It must move faster - and further - in the direction of better integration: better control of its external borders; stronger cooperation among police agencies, national justice systems and the intelligence services; a joint plan for the controlling of the illegal trade in weapons; a single voice on the international stage; a stronger social model and measures to combat the neglect of entire neighbourhoods. ... This path is more complex and harder to follow than nationalist and authoritarian demands. But if the goal is to protect our lives and our values, it is the better path.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Don't let anger cripple us

Fear and anger must not gain the upper hand after the attacks, the liberal daily De Standaard warns:

“The anger is justified. But it must be channelled into a constructive project. … We are under attack from those who have chosen to be our enemies, Prime Minister Charles Michel said yesterday. This statement is wise and apt. It is based on self-assurance, and the 'we' admits all those who want to belong to our democracy. But that doesn't ease the tensions. … We can't counter terrorism without tackling the problem of radicalisation and its breeding grounds in Muslim communities. Especially after such attacks our democracy demands respect for its rules and freedoms. This demand must be given force through broad-based social reform. … The Muslim communities must play a key role here - not because they are under suspicion but because together we want to build a new society.”

tagesschau.de (DE) /

Anti-Islam hype a breeding ground for terror

Many people voiced their rejection of refugees and Islam on the Internet immediately after the Brussels attacks. Such messages are counterproductive, the public broadcaster tagesschau.de warns:

“What these people don't understand is that they are only playing into the hands of the attackers. The goal of the so-called 'Islamic State' has long been to see Muslims marginalised as much as possible in Western societies. Those who have no opportunities here will be more open to the terrorists' ideas, or so the reasoning goes. It's no coincidence that neglected neighbourhoods like Molenbeek and the Paris banlieues are breeding grounds for new terrorist recruits. The fanatics are deliberately blurring the fact that the so-called 'Islamic State' has little to do with the Islam practised by millions of Muslims. Those who do not want to support these terrorists should join forces with all peace-loving people - no matter what their religion.”

Novi list (HR) /

An attack against tolerant society

Inciting hatred against Islam after the Brussels attacks could drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims, the centre-left daily Novi list fears:

“Now the anti-Muslim hysteria will gain fresh impetus even though one of the terrorists' main goals is to create tension between Christians and Muslims. Those who planted the bombs in Brussels were not targeting the Christians and their God but the idea that Christians, Muslims and other religions in Europe can coexist either side by side or in separate communities without slaughtering each other. The idea of tolerance and peaceful coexistence regardless of religious or national background - is this not the very core of a united Europe? An idea that now threatens to fail in the face of intolerance, exclusivity and panic.”

News.bg (BG) /

Liberal softies putting EU in danger

After the attack in Brussels the news portal News.bg asks angrily:

“Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels: what must happen for Europe's political elite to finally start paying attention to the safety of their populations, instead of blabbering the whole time about preserving our values? The values, principles and democratic foundations of our society are not worth the paper they're written on if we're not ready to defend them. Europe, which gave the world modern civilisation, human rights and respect for freedom, has become a source of ridicule for the arrogant dictators with whom Merkel and her clique believe they can sign agreements. Salvation does not lie in re-establishing national borders. It lies in once again electing people to Europe's top posts who have the power and the will to lead Europe to victory against the third Satanic anti-Utopia it has fallen victim to in the past century.”

Basler Zeitung (CH) /

Europe at its wits' end

The Brussels attacks highlight the weakness of the states of the West vis-à-vis the IS terrorists, writes the conservative daily Basler Zeitung:

“Neither bombs nor pampering social policy nor counter-intelligence activities nor turning cities into high-security zones can combat or eliminate such madness, it seems. And in the face of such blindness implanting a humanist sense of reason and decency, or teaching the difference between guilty and innocent, promises to be about effective as making a bomb out of doves of peace. Nor does the extent to which Western policies are to blame for the terror in Europe make any difference, because there is nothing that can justify such massacres, whether they are carried out in the name of Allah or anyone else. This is the way it looks on 23 March 2016: we are at our wits' end; we are defeated.”

Csibakatalin (HU) /

Belgians reacting to terror like Manneken Pis

Despite the devastating attacks in Brussels the Belgians have remained surprisingly calm, Brussels-based blogger Katalin Csiba writes in her blog:

“One thing we must really admire in the Belgian citizens is that they don't panic. They're not easily frightened. Have you heard of Manneken Pis, their national symbol? I somehow get the feeling that the Belgians are adopting the same attitude towards the terrorists as the little boy with his long stream [of urine]. … For some inexplicable reason they are not afraid. And this astounding lack of fear is tangible all over the city [of Brussels]. … The power of fearlessness is enormously important because it will help to protect the Muslims and refugees against the unscrupulous politicians in Belgium who will now fiercely attack them.”

More opinions

The Guardian (GB) / 22 March 2016
  Restraint is the best reaction to terror
Die Welt (DE) / 23 March 2016
  Outrageous dilettantism in police work (in German)