The Murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels — Lessons Not Yet Learned

by YOSSI MELMAN

[Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, wrote this for the website of the non-stop private TV news channel broadcasting from Israel: i24news.tv.]

Europe is in trouble. The terror attack inside the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month exposed basic flaws in the work of French and Belgian security and law enforcement.

A security-camera image of the killer in Brussels

A security-camera image of the killer in Brussels

First, why were there no armed guards?  It is not clear why and who made the unwise decision to define the museum as a cultural center, thus leaving it unguarded, unlike other Jewish institutions – kindergartens, schools, community centers and business offices – which are heavily protected. Now, various Belgian organizations and individuals – the museum director, police chiefs and security services – are blaming each other for the shortcoming.

In France, the security services and police deserve credit for the swift arrest of the French terrorist who carried out the Brussels attack, Mehdi Nemmouche. On the other hand, it is hard to understand why this man, who was on the French blacklist of potential terrorists, managed to travel between countries with weapons. This clearly reflects inadequate coordination between the security services of the two EU neighbors.

One wonders if such is the case between two close-knit intelligence communities, how EU nations will be able to meet the upcoming challenge of monitoring, shadowing and preventing the potential threat posed by more than 1,000 young European militants expected to return home from the Syrian battlefields — should they survive.

Europe should have known better and should have learned the lessons of the aftermath of 9/11.

After the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the toppling of the Taliban regime and the disintegration of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims who had been fighting alongside the Taliban returned to their respective home countries. They had been trained in the use of weapons, had battle-proven experience, were networked, well-connected and highly radicalized and motivated.

The consequences were soon apparent. Some of them went to join Bosnia’s Muslims in the Balkan wars,, while others volunteered to battle the “U.S. invaders” in Iraq.  Still others participated in a serious of murderous terror attacks that shattered Bali, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, London and Madrid, resulting in hundreds of innocent victims. Many more terrorist attempts were foiled by good intelligence.

Europe’s growing fear, as well as that of the United States – in late May, revealing that a U.S. citizen fighting on the side of the rebels carried out a suicide bomb attack in Syria – is that they will suffer a repeat of the Afghanistan experience.

More than a thousand young militants from France, the UK, Spain, Belgium, Holland and other western European states are currently in Syria, fighting alongside their Islamist Mujahideen from Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, against Bashar Assad’s regime. In the process, they undergo religious radicalization.

European countries, and certainly the United States, as well as Arab governments, are more experienced now and should be ready and determined to repel the threat.

Their security services are drawing up lists of the Syria veterans and keeping a close eye on them. Public sympathy for the governments’ anti-terror agenda and the rise of right-wing parties, as the recent EU elections showed, are providing a tail wind for these counter-terrorism efforts. But still, as the Brussels attack shows, there is a long way to go to effectively combat the threats.​

June 3, 2014

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