Brussels Lockdown Puts Pressure On “The World’s Most Prosperous Failed State”
By Felipe Bueno
The Belgian capital of Brussels is slowly returning to its pre-crisis state. CNN reports that schools have reopened and certain parts of the metro are now running. Although the city is beginning to look normal, it has changed in the hearts and minds of its residents.
Although none of the most wanted subjects have been caught, the Belgian government has decided to lower the threat level from four, the highest level possible, to three.
Commuters showed their discontent with the Belgian government and blamed it on their feelings of insecurity, telling the BBC, “They are reopening things, but what evidence is there that anything has changed?”
The rest of the country is on the same threat level, but the government is still keeping the public in the dark as to the reason behind the reduction. Officials continue counterterror raids, but have so far been unable to detain anyone in Auvelais or Verviers, the Belgian towns where the perpetrators of the Paris attacks laid their plans.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Prime Minister Charles Michel refused to elaborate on why the risk level was lowered, and prosecutors earlier gave no indication of a breakthrough in the hunt for Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected to have links to the November 13 attacks on Paris.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens told a local television station that he could not elaborate on the reasons for reducing the threat level, nor could he give an update on the status of investigations into potential plots.
The lowering of the threat level is accompanied by reinforced security in schools, shopping centers, and railway lines. Connections continue to emerge between Brussels and the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
CNN reports that Salah Abdeslam stopped in a cafe in Brussels the day after the Paris attacks. Abdeslam is currently the most wanted man in Europe and the leading suspect in the Paris attacks.
With Brussels being called the “hotbed” of European jihadism, more connections are being found between the city and the Paris attacks. Ali Oulkadi, a Belgian man, picked up Abdeslam after the attacks and brought him to the neighborhood of Schaerbeek, where the two of them and an unidentified individual visited a cafe.
Ali Oulkadi is currently under investigation by Belgium authorities for connections to the attacks, along with six other suspects currently being charged with terrorism offenses.