Belgian Vice PM Acknowledges That Street Celebrations Broke Out in Wake of Brussels Attacks

Jan Jambon says Belgium has a jihadism problem at a symposium organized by a pro-Israel lobby group.

Masked Belgian police at work after bomb attacks in Brussels in March 2016.
Reuters

In the days following terrorist attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, the country’s vice prime minister said.

Jan Jambon made the statement about the March 22 bombings, that killed 32 people, on Wednesday during a symposium titled “Terrorism, Israel and International Law,” organized by the Dutch anti-racism and pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, or the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel in The Hague.

Jambon, a rightist politician, said this is a confirmation that Belgium has a jihadism problem. One of the Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is Europe’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists.

But, Jambon said, racial profiling of jihadists is ineffective. He also said that jihadists hail from various backgrounds, not only from poor environments, “including doctors, lawyers, and common criminals.” Only one in six jihadists comes from a poor home in Belgium, he said. He urged better pan-European cooperation on terrorism.

Jambon’s statement on street celebrations made at the CIDI symposium comes after criticism of the media’s failure to cover such events, including by the prime minister of the Flemish Region, one of the federal Belgian state’s three autonomous states. Flemish Prime Minister Geer Bourgeois said that shortly before the attacks, which are believed to have been the work of Islamic State terrorists, his region’s public broadcaster did not report on riots by Muslims. The attacks happened four days after the arrest of Salah Abdelslam, a suspected terrorist alleged to have been involved in terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

“It is, to me, highly shocking that after Abdelslam’s arrest, 200 young people of foreign origins hurled spontaneously bottles and stones on our police,” said Bourgeois. “It is regrettable that we saw nothing of these images on national television news.”

VRT, the Flemish public broadcaster, said it did not report about that incident for technical reasons, and not out of a desire to silence it.