By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels, June 4, 2002
Islamic terrorists have turned Belgium into a recruiting base and the launch pad
for future attacks across Europe, according to a leaked official dossier.
The report by the Belgian parliament’s intelligence committee, based on
the files of the Belgian secret services, found that the Saudi-backed Salafi
movement had created a religious “state” within Belgium.
Activists operated their own “Islamic police” to enforce Islamic rules and punish
drug-dealers, prostitutes, and alcohol sellers.
Group members were circulating videos of Osama bin Laden and had
carried out paramilitary training and parachute jumps in the Ardennes.
There are 350,000 muslims in Belgium and the report said several of the
country’s influential clerics were tied to bin Laden.
The handful of senators privy to the secret report claimed that Belgium was
harbouring a fifth column that could turn dangerous in any future Middle East
The report said most of the recruits were second and even third generation
immigrants, chiefly from North Africa, who appeared to have rejected the
Belgian way of life, even though Belgium, like neighbouring Holland, had tried to
serve as a model of tolerant integration.
The report concluded that Belgium had become “a logistical support base” for
terrorist groups abroad – favoured by bin Laden’s al-Qa’eda network, the
Algerian Armed Islamic Group GIA, the Wabahi Tabligh movement and the
Hamas-linked Muslim Brotherhood.
Armand De Decker, president of the Belgian senate, said: “A lot of these
extreme groups are attempting to ‘re-Islamise’ Belgium’s Muslim population in
the most radical fashion.
“We’ve got to defend our values, our liberty, our democracy with open
eyes, knowing that they most certainly intend to destroy them.”
Belgium serves as an ideal base because of its open-door immigration policy and
a “hands-off” attitude towards the 70 mosques and 300 Islamic centres – many
subsidised by Belgian taxpayers – that have sprung up in the cities.
The situation is said to make it easy to “spread propaganda and collect
funds” and “to recruit candidates for the Jihad” in schools, prisons, hospitals,
and sports centres.
The report also raised questions about Belgium’s Muslim Executive, which is
officially recognised as the Muslim negotiating body. It said that the executive,
far from acting as a moderating pressure, had increasingly fallen under the
influence of radical groups bent on confrontation.
The security services said that Belgium itself was not a target of terrorist
groups, a finding that is likely to revive allegations that the authorities have in
the past turned a blind eye to conspiracies hatched on Belgian soil in exchange
for immunity from attack.
The FBI complained bitterly after September 11 that the Belgian judiciary was
withholding key information needed to track down al-Qa’eda activists before
the intelligence leads turned cold.
It has since come to light that leading terrorists have been travelling the world
on Belgian passports, either stolen or sold by corrupt officials.
One of the killers of Gen Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of
Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, carried Belgian documents.
Filip Deman, a leader of the growing anti-immigrant Vlaams Blok movement and
a member of the parliamentary investigation, said Belgium’s elite coalitions had
been brushing the Muslim problem under the carpet for years.
He said: “It was taboo to even talk about it under our code of political
correctness, but this report cannot be ignored.”