Belgian vice PM acknowledges street celebrations broke out over Brussels attacks

Cnaan Liphshiz

The aftermath of an explosion in a metro train in Brussels on March 22, 2016. Courtesy of Alexandre De Meeter/

The aftermath of an explosion in a metro train in Brussels on March 22, 2016. Courtesy of Alexandre De Meeter/

THE HAGUE (JTA) – In the days following terrorist attacks in Brussels, street celebrations broke out in several places in Belgium, the county’s vice prime minister said.

Jan Jambon made the statement about the March 22 bombings, that killed 35 people, on Wednesday during a symposium titled “Terrorism, Israel and International Law,” organized by the Dutch anti-racism and pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, or the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel in The Hague.

Jambon, a rightist politician, said this in an admission that Belgium has a jihadism problem. One of the Europe’s smallest countries, Belgium is Europe’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq. In February, Jambon revealed Belgium’s intelligence services have flagged 451 citizens as jihadists.

But, Jambon said, racial profiling of jihadists is ineffective. He also said that jihadists hail from various backgrounds, not only from poor environments, “including doctors, lawyers, and common criminals.” Only one in six jihadists comes from a poor home in Belgium, he said. He urged better pan-European cooperation on terrorism.

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Jambon’s statement on street celebrations made at the CIDI symposium comes after criticism of the media’s failure to cover such events, including by the prime minister of the Flemish Region, one of the federal Belgian state’s three autonomous states. Flemish Prime Minister Geer Bourgeois said that shortly before the attacks, which are believed to have been the work of Islamic State terrorists, his region’s public broadcaster did not report on riots by Muslims. The attacks happened four days after the arrest of Salah Abdelslam, a suspected terrorist alleged to have been involved in terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

“It is, to me, highly shocking that after Abdelslam’s arrest, 200 young people of foreign origins hurled spontaneously bottles and stones on our police,” said Bourgeois. “It is regrettable that we saw nothing of these images on national television news.”

VRT, the Flemish public broadcaster, said it did not report about that incident for technical reasons, and not out of a desire to silence it.

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