Terrorist activity in Belgium

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This article covers attacks and activity of terrorism in Belgium.

Islamic terrorism[edit]

In the 1990s Belgium was a transit country for Islamist terrorist groups like the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).[1]

Belgium has a population of 11 million including large numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries. 100,000 Moroccan citizens live in Belgium, often descended from Moroccans recruited to work in the mining industry in the 1960s; a small fraction of the children and grandchildren of the immigrant generation have been attracted to Militant Islamism and jihad. A tiny fraction of this large Muslim population has participated in terrorist attacks.[2] In a report by the Combating Terrorism Center, of the 135 individuals surveyed in connection with terrorism, there were 12 different nationalities. Of those 65% had Belgian citizenship and 33% were either Moroccan citizens or had ancestral roots there.[3]

In 2016, Belgian researcher estimated that about 562 individuals had travelled to become foreign fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, the majority of whom joined the Islamic State with others joining the al-Qaida-affiliated group Al-Nusra Front.[4] The majority of those who went to the Syria in the 2012-2016 time span were of Moroccan descent according to U.S. and Belgian authorities.[5]

Belgium has been the base of operations for a number of terrorist attacks in the 2010s, including the November 2015 Paris attacks.[2] It has also been the place where some Islamist militants developed militant views before going to the Middle East to fight with ISIS.[2]

In June 2016, with 451 fighters having travelled to join the Syrian Civil War, Belgium had the highest number of foreign fighters per capita.[1]

The November 2015 Paris attacks in France were coordinated and planned from Belgium. The overall leader of that terrorist cell was believed to be Mohamed Belkaid, an Islamic State operative from Algeria who previously had lived in Sweden. Belkaid was killed in a shootout in the Foret district of Brussels, during which Belkaid was firing on police to allow Salah Abdeslam to escape. Salah Abdeslam was arrested a few days later and the surviving members of the cell, including brothers Najim Laachraoui and Khalid and Ibrahim Bakraoui (previously armed robbers) launched the 2016 Brussels bombings targeting Brussels airport and metro killing 32.[1]

Terrorism experts regard ISIS activities in Europe's Francophone area as a single, French-Belgian junction of Islamic State activity and attacks.[6]

List of terrorist incidents[edit]

Attacks related to Middle East politics[edit]

  • 1 August 1985: Silco incident. Kidnapping of Belgian-French family by the government of Libya; they were held for almost five years.[7]

Attacks related to Northern Ireland[edit]

  • 22 March 1979: A Belgian bank employee was shot by the Provisional IRA, who thought it was Sir John Killick.
  • 25 June 1979: An IRA bomb in Brussels targeted but failed to hit a British general.
  • 6 July 1979: An IRA bomb detonates in a British consulate building in Antwerp.
  • 29 August 1979: 1979 Brussels bombing. The IRA bombs the central square of Brussels whilst targeting British troops, injuring 15.
  • 3 November 1979: The British consulate in Antwerp is bombed by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).[9][10]

Antisemitic attacks[edit]


Far-left attacks[edit]


Islamist attacks[edit]

  • 29 May 2018: 2018 Liège attack. A prisoner left prison, stabbed two female police officers, took their guns, shot and killed them and a civilian in Liège, Belgium. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack done by a soldier of the caliphate.[24]
  • 10 November 2022: 2022 Brussels stabbing. A police officer was killed together while another officer were injured in a stabbing attack in Brussels. The perpetrator was shot and injured and later brought to the hospital.[25]

Far-Right Attacks[edit]

  • 6 December 1985: 1985 Liège bombing: The Liège courthouse was significantly damaged and one person was killed when a bomb went off.
  • The Brabant killers, a trio of far-right extremists who killed 28 people in the 1980s, have been referred to as terrorists by some.[26]


  1. ^ a b c van Ostaeyen, Pieter (June 2016). "Belgian Radical Networks and the Road to the Brussels Attacks". Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
  2. ^ a b c Schreuer, Milan (21 June 2017). "Brussels Train Station Bombing Renews Focus on Belgium as Jihadist Base". New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  3. ^ Van Vlierden, Guy; Lewis, Jon; Rassler, Don (February 2018). These circumstances contributes to private businesses having difficulties operating in the area (PDF). Combating Terrorism Center. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  4. ^ Burke, Jason (2016-03-22). "Why did the bombers target Belgium?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  5. ^ "When It Comes To Radicalization In Belgium, Turks and Moroccans Are Different". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-03-10. More than 500 Belgians have left for Syria since 2012 and most of them, according to Belgian and U.S. officials, have been of Moroccan descent.
  6. ^ Brisard, Jean-Charles (10 November 2016). "The Islamic State's External Operations and the French-Belgian Nexus". Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  8. ^ "I.r.a. Sets Off Bomb at Belgian Concert". The New York Times. August 29, 1979 – via NYTimes.com.
  9. ^ Terrorist Group Profiles. DIANE Publishing. July 25, 1990. p. 51. ISBN 9781568068640 – via Internet Archive. inla antwerp bomb 1979.
  10. ^ Alexander, Yonah; Myers, Kenneth (April 17, 2015). Terrorism in Europe (RLE: Terrorism & Insurgency). Routledge. ISBN 9781317449331 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ a b "Jewish youth dies in blast of grenade". The Globe and Mail. 28 July 1980. ProQuest 386914648.
  12. ^ "Palestinian guerrillas claim synagogue bombing". UPI. 21 October 1981.
  13. ^ a b Wielaard, Robert (21 April 1985). "Second Blast in Two Days Damages AEG-Telefunken Offices". AP News. Brussels. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  14. ^ Du Bois, Yannick. "Plaque: CCC bombings". Brussels Remembers. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Abdelhamid Abaaoud, l'instigateur présumé des attentats tué à Saint-Denis" [Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged instigator of the attacks killed at Saint-Denis]. Le Monde. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  16. ^ Lasoen, Kenneth (2017). "Indications and warning in Belgium. Brussels is not Delphi". Journal of Strategic Studies. 40 (7): 927–962. doi:10.1080/01402390.2017.1288111. S2CID 157685300.
  17. ^ "Another bomb found in Brussels after attacks kill at least 34; Islamic State claims responsibility". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Policières attaquées en Belgique: six interpellations". AFP. 30 November 2016. ProQuest 1844558637.
  19. ^ Samuel, Henry (5 October 2016). "Two policemen injured in Brussels stabbing in suspected terror attack". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  20. ^ Dewan, Angela; Isaac, Lindsay (5 October 2016). "Two Brussels police officers stabbed in terror attack, prosecutor says". CNN. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Suspects face terrorism charges after raids in Belgium". DW. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Brüssel: Verdächtiger nach Explosion in Brüsseler Bahnhof "neutralisiert"". Die Zeit (in German). 2017-06-20. ISSN 0044-2070. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  23. ^ Lasoen, Kenneth (2019). "War of Nerves. The Domestic Terror Threat and the Belgian Army". Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 42 (11): 953–971. doi:10.1080/1057610X.2018.1431270. S2CID 116180694.
  24. ^ Crisp, James (May 29, 2018). "Belgium shooting: 'Radicalised' prisoner on day release kills two female police officers in Liege". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  25. ^ "Belgium police stabbing suspect on counterterrorism watch list".
  26. ^ "Belgian Brabant killers, new information". October 21, 2017.