2016 Brussels attacks trial: Attacks used in IS propaganda, glorifying violence
The Islamic State (IS) used its well-oiled propaganda machine to glorify the March 22, 2016 attacks on Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station. The jihadist group explicitly praised the attacks in magazines and videos to demonstrate its power and encourage other soldiers to copy the actions of the suicide bombers, Islamic studies expert Mohamed Fahmi revealed in Monday morning's court hearing.
IS spread its propaganda in various languages, such as Arabic, French, English, and Russian, through various channels such as social media, private groups, and propaganda agencies. The propaganda had three goals: recruiting new soldiers, claiming responsibility for the attacks, and legitimizing the violence as retaliation for the war in the Middle East, Fahmi explained.
The Brussels attacks were reported in four editions of jihadist magazines and five videos. Articles in French-language magazines and one English-language magazine hailed the attacks as good news. The first article appeared on March 22, 2016 at 11 PM, just hours after the deadly attacks occurred. The reports glorified the violence and were filled with falsehoods and exaggerations. The victims were presented as complicit crusaders and aggressors. The impact of the attacks on tourism and economic losses was exaggerated. Next to one article, a surveillance image of Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui at Brussels airport was printed. Notably, surviving terrorist Mohamed Abrini (now on trial) has been cut from the picture, Fahmi underlined.
Belgium was portrayed as a tiny country that was first in line to wage war against Muslims. The attacks in Brussels and Paris would only be only a drop in the ocean.
With the videos, four of which were released between March 25 and 27, 2016, IS aimed to claim responsibility for, justify and celebrate the attacks, and identify the suicide bombers. Images of the attacks at both locations - set to songs that glorified the violence - were interspersed with images of bombings in the Middle East and IS fighters warning of more bloodshed. In the videos, Belgium was portrayed as a tiny country that was first in line to wage war against Muslims. The attacks in Brussels and Paris would only be only a drop in an ocean of poison and death.
In a fifth video, which compiled different attacks in Europe, surviving terrorist Mohamed Abrini was mentioned by name. This is probably due to a "technical error," Fahmi explained. Glorifying someone who failed to complete his mission, who became scared and fled, is inconsistent with the propaganda logic.
© BELGA PHOTO JONATHAN DE CESARE