Belgium Anti-Terror Raid Highlights Security Fears Within Jewish Community
The death of two jihadis in an anti-terror operation in eastern Belgium has again highlighted the fears of the country’s Jewish community over security, less than a year after the attack by an Islamist terrorist on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in which four people were murdered.
Belgian Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said that police had targeted a group of Islamists in the town of Verviers who had returned from Syria and were about to launch “large-scale” attacks.
“The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralized,” he said.
Anti-terror raids were also under way in the Brussels region, Mr Van der Sypt added, according to the BBC.
“We still expect a number of arrests,” he said.
Suspects had opened fire on police with assault weapons, he said.
Rabbi Shimon Lasker, who represents the Chabad movement in Belgium, told The Algemeiner that news of the raid was spreading uncertainty through the 50,000-strong Jewish community, particularly after the terror attacks in Paris last week.
“More than before, people here, especially those with children, are asking whether there is a future,” Rabbi Lasker said. “They are asking, if there is a raid on a Jewish school, are we equipped, are we ready?”
A dinner planned for this Friday night with a Jewish youth group had already been canceled, Rabbi Lasker said, adding that some families with children had also stopped attending synagogue in recent days.
Charles Picqué, a leading Belgian socialist politician who enjoys close relations with the Jewish community, has called for additional resources in the fight against terrorism. Earlier this week, he told Belgian news site DH.be that “it is not the police who must protect the many Jewish institutions located in area, but the military. The police are not trained to fight against people armed with Kalashnikovs who are returning from Syria.”
Around 300 Belgian jihadis are reported to have traveled to Syria to fight with Islamic State and other terrorist groups engaged in the brutal civil war there.