Belgium sees rise in threats against police forces but no increased terrorism threat
OCAD, The Belgian Coordination Body for Threat Assessment, recorded 215 threat reports related to terrorism or extremism in 2022. This means no significant increase compared with 2021, with 218 reports. OCAD did note a significant increase in threats against police forces in 2022.
Unlike 2021, there was no threat last year that was labelled "very serious" - there was one such threat in 2021. Most reports (60 per cent) were rated as low, another third as medium. Fewer than one in 10 were serious at some point. Threats are mostly made through social media or messaging apps. Throughout the year, the overall threat level remained at level 2, or medium.
In addition, a majority comes from so-called lone actors, individuals who only want to take action. "Most of these individuals have no structural link to terrorist or extremist groups," the OCAD explains. "Less than a fifth of threat reports involve plans that are plotted by several individuals together."
Supporters of jihadist ideology also accounted for a third of reports in 2022. For another third, the ideological dimension is unknown or unclear. In addition, OCAD notes that a tenth come from abroad and an equally large proportion are described as "various threats arising from a specific theme in society, such as anti-establishment sentiments following the COVID-19 pandemic". Finally, just under a tenth of reports are related to right-wing extremism. Threats related to left-wing extremism remained limited.
In all these threats, by orders of magnitude, specific people, police and military, politics, public buildings, the general public and certain communities were targeted. The OCAD notes that in the last quarter there was a "significant increase" in the number of threats against police forces: in November, a police officer was killed in Schaerbeek by a known extremist. The increased number of reports is partly due to "increased vigilance and the copycat effect", notes the OCAD. How many threats against police forces there were in 2022, OCAD does not disclose.
The various departments involved notify OCAD of reports of threats related to extremism or terrorism, which are then processed and analysed. In doing so, OCAD provides a threat level and context. If necessary, protective measures then follow.
Brussels airport workers and their relatives pay tribute to the victims of Brussels triple attacks at a makeshift memorial near the airport in Zaventem on March 23, 2016, a day after triple bomb attacks at the Brussels airport and at a subway train station killed 31 people and wounded more than 200. World leaders united in condemning the carnage in Brussels and vowed to combat terrorism, after Islamic State bombers attacked the symbolic heart of the EU. © BELGA PHTOT PHILIPPE HUGUEN