When news breaks of a possible terrorist attack in Belgium, first thing: try to contact friends and relatives. Second: get more information. Third: thank lucky stars, guardian angels, God, it was yet again no personal experience.
Early morning, Belgian news released a name: thirty-six-year old Moroccan Oussama Z. who lived in Brussels. Another criminal known to police. Yet not for being a radical, but apparently as sex offender.
The latest terrorist is yet again from Molenbeek. It’s tough when the world only learns about a place in this manner. There are plenty nice, decent people living there. They do not deserve to get stigmatized, yet this is the result.
Anybody traveling through Europe is familiar with police and army guarding and patrolling buildings, streets, squares. Though some people think it is unnecessary, offensive. Take the American couple who got of a train at a major station like me.
“Way over the top! These police and army guys with guns”, they complained to each other, while dragging their suitcases to an elevator. Really?
Guess they were unaware of a certain war on terrorism. Guess the couple’s safety and protection were not high on their priority list. Guess they missed we are fighting all extremism, fundamentalism; all violent idealists operating under whatever flags, nationalities, ideas, religions which they claim gives them the right to carry out violent terrorist acts.
An employee of Belgian Rail (NMBS) was one of several witnesses. He recounted what he saw to Belgian media. A man later shot by police, left his trolley at the bottom of the sweeping staircase, leading from the main entrance down into the large hall where more stairs lead down to various platforms.
Usually, crowds stand in the hall watching screens or reading schedules telling them which trains arrive when and depart from which platforms into which direction. People come and go, heading for metro or buses. People walk to or return from the center or visit station shops.
There were only about four people in the vicinity of the suitcase, filled with metal objects to cause as much harm as possible. The trolley exploded practically immediately. Now we know, a larger suitcase did not. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
Armed soldiers of the kind, the Americans found so offensive elsewhere, shot the man. Police, forensic experts, bomb disposal teams arrived and were at the station for hours. Yet this morning, trains were arriving and departing as usual.
House searches are taking place in Molenbeek and elsewhere. Belgian Prime Minister Michel told the media “We’re not going to be intimidated”. Brussels new mayor Philippe Close used this latest incident to state more police are needed.
For tourists and ordinary citizens in Europe, their friends and relatives, it remains a case of “What next, where next?” Media now report, suspects were recently arrested in The Netherlands, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe – on top of the incidents in France and the UK.