Threat level in Belgium to remain at 'serious' until end of summer

The Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA), the centre that assesses and coordinates responses to terrorism and extremist threats in Belgium, presented its annual report on Thursday. It also announced that the overall threat to Belgium will remain at level 3, or "serious", until at least the end of the summer

"We take several factors into account: the number of reports, their severity and the number of terrorism files at the judiciary, police and intelligence services," says director Gert Vercauteren. "And trigger events, events that have an emotional impact and could provoke a reaction," such as the conflict in Gaza.

Level 3 has been in place since last October, when a gunman shot dead two Swedish football fans in Brussels. The perpetrator distributed a video claiming responsibility for the attack in the name of IS and was later shot dead by police.

More diverse threats

CUTA's annual report shows that the threat from Islamist sources remains the greatest for Belgium. But the centre warns that the sources of threats have become much more diverse. In four out of 10 reports, it was difficult to pinpoint the ideology from which the threat emanated.

"The motives of the perpetrators have become more vague and diverse," the report says. "In addition, personal grievances can play an important role, as can a psychological problem or certain symbolic events that act as a catalyst."

Threats related to political opposition abroad are the third largest group (7 per cent), followed by threats from right-wing extremists (5 per cent), anti-establishment sentiment (3 per cent) and left-wing extremists (1 per cent).

International conflicts

CUTA's report also discusses Russia's hybrid warfare, such as hacking and spreading fake news. According to the centre, the impact of this has been limited, although vigilance remains necessary.

Finally, CUTA notes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to increased tension and polarisation in Belgium. Around 40 threat reports in October and November could be linked to the conflict, as well as around 40 smaller incidents, in which antisemitism often played a significant role. CUTA adds that the severity of the reports can vary greatly and that these figures should be treated with caution.



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