Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Major terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium. Suicide bombing in an airport and a bombing at a metro station.

Blown out windows at the Zaventem airport. Reuters. 

I'm going to skip the usual format for this one, and point out that everything I am writing here is an initial reaction. As you are probably aware there was a major terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium this morning. The most current casualty figures I have seen is 34 dead and 170+ wounded, but that number is likely to change. The attack was a two pronged one. The Zaventem airport in Brussels was struck by a suicide bomber. Near the EU headquarters a metro train was bombed at the Maelbeek station. 

For live updates for this event visit one of these sites:

I'm absolutely furious about this attack. I know a few people that are in Europe right now, and at least two of them were either in the area or were going to be there soon. One person I know usually rides the train that was blown up and only didn't today because she was running late. Another was on vacation and was scheduled to land at Zavetem airport a few hours after the attack. Thankfully, they are both safe and fine right now, but I can't even pretend to be objective about this topic when two people I know, both from high school, could have been killed if things had been even slightly different. 

I think it is fairly obvious that this attack is related to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the last known attacker involved with the Paris attacks. Though I don't feel like this is a "revenge" attack for his arrest and the raid that killed another Jihadist, I do think that the attack is at least related. The timing is a bit too quick for it to be an attack that was specifically an attack in response to that. It is unclear if Abdeslam was working with this particular terrorist cell. It's possible that Abdeslam was not involved with this cell, but my guess is that he was.

If he was, then this attack may have been pushed up due to his arrest. If Abdeslam talked, the whole operation could have been burned, and the attack could have never been pulled off.  My guess is that they felt the police closing in so they had to attack now. We don't know if that is the case or not, but I would put money on it. 

It also seems obvious that there are still suspects at large. Though one of the bombers blew himself up, I don't think that one person planted all three bombs. He probably did place the two bombs that detonated at the airport, but I don't think he did the metro bombing, just due to the improbable timing that would require. My guess is that at least one bomber is still on the loose, with more possibly on the loose. Belgium has taken the extraordinary step requesting that the media not talk about the ongoing operation, so we probably won't know what happened for quite some time.

I also want to point out the significance of these targets. Obviously an airport is a major target no matter what. It is a tempting target and despite the presence of security outside of the gates, it's fairly easy to strike outside of the secure areas. That seems to be what has happened in Brussels. The bomber didn't blow himself up in the secure areas, he just attacked the people waiting to get through security. Attacking an airport also increased the number of people that would be effected by the attack. People from all over the world visit the Zavetem airport, and I am sure there will be victims from other countries besides Belgium.

The attack on the metro station is even more significant. The Maelbeek station is right by many EU government buildings. The choice of this station is a direct attack on the EU and may have indeed killed people that work for the EU. This is a clear message that nobody is safe, not even the people that run the European government.

I haven't said much about the people responsible for this attack. It's almost certainly ISIS. After all, it happened right after an ISIS cell was burned and many ISIS supporters are celebrating the attack on social media. And I haven't heard anything about al-Qaeda being active in Belgium. They have a history in Europe, as they pulled off the Charlie Hebdo attack, but I think it is extremely unlikely that they were the ones responsible for it. 

As for what should be done, I am not sure. Belgium really needs to crack down on the extremist Muslims in the country, but at this point I am not sure that is enough. Once we know more about the suspects, we should know more about what can be done. It is possible that the attackers were either native born, recent immigrants, or even people smuggled in during the migrant crisis. But no matter where these people came from, they were still able to pull off this attack. 

I do think that we need to start hitting ISIS harder though. Though we are still hitting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we have been ignoring them for the most part in Libya. But even if we do go into all three countries, there are so many operatives and terrorists running around, the threat won't go away. I really don't think there is much that the Europeans can do to stop these attacks, short of the law enforcement and intelligence activities that they are doing now. 

Finally, I may have an update post on this topic later tonight. I could write more about how this could effect the US election or if it could effect the UK trying to leave the EU, but I am just not up to it. For right now, I am going to take a break from all this and try to think about something else... 

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