Until five months ago, not a single minor was on the list of people monitored by the Belgian terrorist threat agency OCAD. However, in early November 2020, two minors were arrested in Eupen. They were planning a terrorist attack against the police. At the beginning of 2021, four more minors were arrested. They were planning individual attacks.
One of the youths had bought a machete,” Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told VRT, “The other wanted to buy knives. These are so-called lone wolves, unstable personalities who have contact with hate preachers on the internet and are influenced by extremist ideologies. They had not made the terror plans together, but each on his own.”
The Belgian security services took the situation seriously and arrested the four youths, who now remain in a facility for young people. They remain under surveillance and in contact with organisations that are supposed to take care of their deradicalisation.
“They are young Belgians from different backgrounds,” the justice minister stressed: “Some have converted to Islam, some come from Flanders, others from Wallonia. What strikes us above all is that they are young people and families who were not known to the security services. Which makes the work more difficult. Radicalisation takes place in front of the computer screen. That’s why you have to track them down quickly. We succeeded in doing that in this case.”
Why these young people are zealous for radical Islam is not yet clear. Probably that this radicalisation has taken place in recent months.
“It is striking that the murder of Samuel Paty was also an important signal of the radicalisation of minors in Belgium,” says Justice Minister Van Quickenborne. The French history teacher had shown two caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression. As a result, he was beheaded by a radical youth.
“We are now seeing minors on our terrorist list for the first time in three years,” he continued. “First the two minors in Eupen. And now we have four more underage individual perpetrators. (…) We absolutely have to keep an eye on these young people.” The Corona crisis can also trigger radicalisation. Young people spend more time on the computer and have fewer extracurricular activities.
Why these young people are fervent for radical Islam is not yet clear. Probably that this radicalisation has taken place in the last few months.