In the days following terrorist attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, Vice Prime Minister Jan Jambon said Wednesday, while acknowledging the country has a jihadism problem.
Jambon made the statement about the March 22 bombings, which killed 32 people, during a symposium entitled “Terrorism, Israel and International Law” and organized by the Dutch anti-racism and pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, or the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel, in The Hague.
One of Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is the continent’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, CNN reported. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists.
But, Jambon said, racial profiling of jihadists is ineffective. He pointed that jihadists hail from various backgrounds, “including doctors, lawyers, and common criminals,” and not solely from poor environments. Only one in six jihadists comes from a poor home in Belgium, he said, as he urged better pan-European cooperation on terrorism.
Jambon’s statement comes of the heels of criticism over the media’s failure to cover such events, including from the prime minister of the Flemish Region, one of the Belgium’s three autonomous areas. 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 suicide attacks, which killed 32 people, took place four days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a suspected terrorist alleged to have been involved in the wave of terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last November.
“It is, to me, highly shocking that after Abdeslam’s arrest, 200 young people of foreign origin hurled spontaneously bottles and stones at our police,” Bourgeois said. “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 the incident for technical reasons, and not out of a desire to silence it.