BRUSSELS: Belgium has prevented six attacks over the past two years, a senior police official said Tuesday, with the country still a prominent target for jihadist assaults.
“I can announce… that over two years, since November 2014 precisely, we have been able to foil at least six attacks,” Eric Jacobs, head of judicial police in Brussels, said in an interview with the daily La Derniere Heure, without offering further details.
Jacobs said Belgium has been fighting terrorism for 20 years but with population growing in the Belgian capital, the number of groups has multiplied.
“There are more than 200 nationalities in the capital. There is not only Daesh (an acronym for Islamic State). There are other radical movements,” he said.
In January 2015, Belgian police dismantled a cell in Verviers in the east of the country which was later seen as the rough beginnings of the jihadist group that attacked Paris in November that year.
And on March 22, IS-linked attackers struck Brussels airport and the metro killing 32 people, despite the arrest in the Belgian capital only four days earlier of the last surviving jihadist from the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam.
Since that attack, Belgian police and intelligence services have seen a major increase in information, “up to 600 tips daily”, Jacobs said.
“A lot of the tips are not relevant but when we’re told that some grey car is suspect, if we don’t verify it and there is an attack the next day, they are going to say that we knew and didn’t do anything,” he said.
The threat level in Belgium remains high at three on a scale of four levels and is expected to be unchanged through the New Year holiday.
“Forty-five percent of the federal judicial police in Brussels are assigned to combat terrorism,” Jacobs said, urging continued reinforcement of the police services. AFP