June 2017 Brussels attack
|June 2017 Brussels attack|
Brussels Central Station in 2010
|Location||Brussels Central Station in Brussels, Belgium|
20 June 2017 |
|Deaths||1 (the attacker)|
On 20 June 2017, a terrorist bomb caused a small explosion at Brussels Central Station in Brussels, Belgium; there were no casualties. Soldiers patrolling the station killed the suspect with 3 to 4 shots, according to eyewitnesses. The perpetrator was Oussama Zariouh, a 36-year-old Moroccan national who lived in the Molenbeek district of Brussels and who had assembled a defective explosive device.
After the Paris attacks that killed 130 people in 2015 and the Brussels bombings of 2016 that killed 32 civilians, soldiers have been on patrol in Brussels to step up security. The Molenbeek district, where the perpetrators of the 2016 bombings originated, underwent a large-scale administrative check-up, with over 20,000 inhabitants being checked by law enforcement agencies.
At 20:39, a 36-year-old male entered the Brussels Central Station and descended the central stairs in the main hall, approaching a cluster of ten travelers at the bottom of the stairs. At 20:44, the man was seen isolating himself from others, then moving towards the cluster of travelers again, appearing to be nervous. He was heard yelling, and attempted to detonate a luggage trolley. Testimonies of eyewitnesses and a photograph taken by a witness indicate a small incendiary device detonated, with limited explosive force, but with a loud "bang". The size of the explosion suggests the device failed to function as intended, possibly as a result of poor manufacturing. According to the magistrate, the man was heard to shout "Allahu Akbar" after setting off the explosion and before being shot dead. The perpetrator had received no training in handling explosives, and taught himself how to construct explosive devices. The explosive used was TATP, the same compound used during the 2016 bombings, the Parsons Green bombing, and the 2017 Stockholm attack.
As the trolley caught fire, he proceeded down the escalators towards the platforms, causing travelers to flee onto the train tracks. The burning luggage exploded a second time, due to gas bottles it contained. This second explosion was reported more powerful than the first one, but due to the time elapsed after the first explosion, no one was injured because travelers had the chance to clear the area. Shrapnel contained around the charge indicates the device was intended to cause as much injury as possible, but the device did not reach the intended maximum yield because of construction flaws.
Upon returning to the main hall, the confused suspect was spotted by soldiers alerted by the explosions. He shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and engaged military personnel unarmed. The soldiers opened fire and killed the suspect. It remained unclear for hours whether the suspect had survived or not. Because he was perceived to be wearing a "rucksack and bomb belt" and wiring was visible under his clothes, the body was not approached until the bomb squad of the Belgian Army, DOVO, arrived with a robot to inspect the body and confirm his death. The Belgian state television VRT initially reported that the body was booby-trapped, but it did not report that he was not wearing a bomb on his body.
The attacker, identified as Oussama Zariouh (alt: Usamah Zaryuh) was a 36-year-old Moroccan national who had moved from his home country to Belgium in 2002 and had been living in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels since 2013. He was only known to police for sexual misconduct, but had no identified ties to terrorism. A neighbor described the man as a silent and reserved individual who rarely received visitors.
Zariouh had not received training for handling explosives or constructing explosive devices, which is required for the effective use of TATP in bombs according to terrorism expert Peter Bergen. Kenneth Lasoen, a security and intelligence expert at the University of Ghent, concurred. "He did not know what he was doing. If this had been Daesh (Islamic State), he would have had better instructions about how to do this awful act." He is believed to have constructed the hydrogen-peroxide-based explosive TATP on his own in his Molenbeek apartment.
The incident was treated by prosecutors as "attempted terrorist murder". Immediately after the incident police, aided by soldiers from the Belgian army, swept the station and set up a secure perimeter around the station. The Brussels North Station was closed as a precaution, and multiple suspicious luggage items were inspected. All train traffic between North and South was suspended, and also the metro service was temporarily halted. Guests of the nearby Hilton hotel were evacuated, but allowed to return to their rooms around 23:30. The UNESCO heritage site Grand Place was briefly partially locked down. On the nearby Grass Square (Dutch: Grasmarkt), another explosion could be heard as a result of a controlled detonation of a suspected vehicle by the Belgian bomb squad.
The incident was used as an argument by advocates of stronger civil oversight within the Belgian political establishment to extend the mandate of soldiers patrolling the major cities in Belgium. A campaign was launched on social media to compliment the involved soldiers on their efficient resolution of the incident, although because the "rucksack and a bomb belt" he was seen to be wearing turned out not to be contain explosives,[not in citation given] the presence of soldiers around the station - one of whom shot him - turned out to have had very little impact on the damage caused by the attack.[clarification needed]
The attack was understood by analysts at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times as part of a shift in ISIS tactics as the group experienced an ongoing loss of territorial control in Syria and a concomitant loss in the capacity to train and dispatch operatives to commit attacks on foreign soil. The Washington Post described this as a move towards the use of "inexperienced perpetrators who act alone, without apparent direction or training."
Writing in Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, Paige V. Pascarelli discussed this bombing as part of an exploration of the reasons why the Moroccan immigrant community in Belgium has produced a disproportionately large number of jihadists in contrast with the similarly poorly integrated and economically unsuccessful Turkish immigrant community.
Thomas Renard of the EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels called Zariouh "the new face of jihad in Europe."
- 2016 Brussels bombings
- 2016 stabbing of Brussels police officers
- Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting
- 2015 New Year's attack plots
- Terrorism in the European Union
- August 2017 Brussels attack
- 2017 Port Authority Bus Terminal explosion
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L'homme abattu par les soldats à la gare centrale de Bruxelles était un Marocain de 36 ans. Il vivait à Molenbeek
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The authorities said the man was known to police for sexual misconduct but not for terrorism.
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