This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Muted Alarm Bells

"We always see in hindsight that people were known or followed. Such things happen. In hindsight it is easy to say, but with the numbers that have to be followed, it's impossible to watch them all."
Guy Van Vlierden, Belgian journalist
"[Bilal Hadfi was] a nice student, motivated and interested in politics, more than the others."
"He stopped listening to music, and he believed that women should be veiled if they didn't want to be raped."
Sara Stacino, (former) teacher, Dutch-speaking high school, Molenbeek, Belgium

"We knew Hadfi had travelled to Syria and had come back. But when he wasn't found to be home, they had to stop the tapping, according to the legal requirements."
Seighild Lacoere, Justice Ministry spokeswoman, Belgium
Religious zeal: His Facebook page reveals a young man who was concerned with having fun with his 'little brothers' (pictured), but that all changed in the months before he left
Religious zeal: His Facebook page reveals a young man who was concerned with having fun with his 'little brothers' (pictured), but that all changed in the months before he left
Belgian security forces tapped one bomber's telephone, briefly detaining and interviewing two other suspects; one for travelling to Syria, the other for radical views. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks had been followed by Belgian prosecutors; his crime, hauling his 13-year-old brother to become an Islamic State jihadi. All in the view of intelligence were prime suspects, but evidently not prime enough for continued and closer scrutiny.

It seems police viewed those men with suspicion and they had plenty of other Belgian researchers and journalists also interested in tracking the concerns and actions of the suspects. Social media sites were a great assist in that regard. A list of 800 Belgians with suspected ties to terrorist groups also held the names of three men involved in the Paris attacks. That was a list the Belgian Coordination Unit for Threat Assessment maintained.

France has its own such list, and it has 1,200 names of suspects. The problem is obvious; with so many suspects where will authorities find the manpower to follow those suspected extremists. Where will the Arabic speakers come from to give assistance? And then there's the issue of overlapping government authority with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is engaged in. The police are overwhelmed and so are the intelligence services.

And that in and of itself should deliver a whopping warning. That message being: Islamist threats prepared to deliver mayhem and murder have infiltrated Europe; in this case, France and Belgium. From among ordinary Muslim civilians a sleeping menace is urged awake by the social media sites that incite and celebrate the exceptionalism and conquering spirit of noble Islam, prepared to take unto itself the rigours of world domination.
Getty Football fans talk to a policeman securing an area outside the Stade de France
Football fans outside the Stade de France after the terrorist attacks on Friday night -- Getty Images

Belgian authorities became aware of Bilal Hadfi, 20, one of the suicide bombers, after his secondary school teachers expressed their alarm at his sudden attachment to radical Islam. He had always stood out as somewhat different; intellectual and politically aware, and then the switch was made to intense Islamism. Following the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks he delivered an expression of support for the massacre in his classroom.

Travelling to Syria, he was posting on Twitter, referring to the Western coalition fighting Islamic State as "infidels", writing "they should no longer feel safe, not even in their dreams." Even his mother realized that her son was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. She knew that he had been turned inside out as a keening jihadist prepared to commit himself to whatever atrocities ISIL asked of him. His baby face belied his inner demon.

Turkish authorities stopped Brahim Abdeslam, 31, a bar manager from the Molenbeek neighbourhood -- a heavily Muslim-populated area -- on his way to Syria, returning him to Belgium, where the federal police took him in for questioning. Brahim's brother Salah, 26, more recently radicalized, was also questioned. Then they were released, with no evidence they were preparing to commit terrorist acts, so "that was it".

Brahim and Salah Abdeslam took part in the Paris attacks on Friday, the 13th of November; Brahim blew himself to smithereens, his brother is being hunted.

In a January raid against a safe house in the town of Verviers, 120 kilometres east of Brussels, counter-terrorism agents unearthed police uniforms, forged IDs, explosives and automatic weapons, arresting over a dozen Islamist jihadis over a plan to target police. That raid involved a search for Abaaoud, who had formed the cell.

He wasn't among those apprehended at that time, and boasted repeatedly that he was able to easily foil border scrutiny and go anywhere he wanted to. Even when he was stopped and questioned, he was able to convince the police that he was no one of particular interest to them, so he was released and went on his way. To eventually plan and carry out the Paris atrocity that left 129 people dead.

Culminating in the raid that took place on Wednesday where he too paid the ultimate penalty for conspiring to slaughter in the name of Islamist conquest.

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