For the second time in two months, soldiers patrolling the streets of Brussels have shot dead a lone terrorist attempting to commit murder in the capital. In June another extremist who tried to bomb the Gare Central was also shot dead by a soldier.
Charles Michel, the Belgian Prime Minister, tweeted “All our support is with our soldiers. Our security services remain on alert. We are following the situation closely”.
The Chasseurs Ardennais with their distinctive green berets and the wild boar insignia have become a familiar sight in Brussels. All citizens are thankful for the protection that the Belgian Police and the Belgian Armed Forces give us, to safeguard our daily lives. Armed soldiers and extra police have been deployed at transport stations and key buildings in the capital since the November 2015 attacks in Paris, and were stepped up in March 2016 following the deadly suicide bombings in Brussels.
In this most recent attack, which took place last Friday night, three soldiers patrolling the Boulevard Emile Jacqmain in Central Brussels were attacked from behind by a 30 year old Somali man with a machete, shouting “Allahu Akbar”. One of the soldiers opened fire and shot the attacker twice, who later died from his wounds in hospital. The maniac had in his possession an imitation firearm and a machete. Two of the soldiers were lightly injured, one wounded on the head, and the other on the hand.
An IS jihadist organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to have been an isolated incident committed by a lone individual. According to a police spokesperson the assailant was not known by the intelligence services for any terror-related activities, but he did have an assault and battery charge on his police record dating from February. Police have raided the suspect’s home in Bruges, as part of their investigation into his possible motives and any related support network. The incident is being treated by the federal prosecutor as an attempted terrorist murder.
One hour after the Brussels attack, a similar assault occurred in Central London outside Buckingham Palace, when a sword wielding lone extremist tried to attack two police officers.
Analysts have warned that as ISIS is collapsing and losing control over territory in Iraq and Syria, they are calling for attacks in Europe as a desperate means of maintaining publicity. The level of national security in Belgium remains unchanged following this latest attack, but we should all be alert to the risk of further extremist aggression on the streets.