CATF Reports Jan. 17, 2017, 9:26am


Belgian watchdog agency Comité P recently compiled an 82-page confidential report for the Belgian Parliament which sheds light on the “puzzle pieces” of information the Belgian police had, but failed to assemble, on ISIS affiliates Brahim and Salah Abdeslam before the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks which both brothers helped orchestrate. The report describes the Belgian security apparatus as “underfunded and dysfunctional”- similar to how the police characterized their own system, choosing instead to label themselves as “overworked” rather than “dysfunctional.” Adding to the police force’s shortcomings is a poor level of coordination between local and federal police, along with a language barrier between law-enforcement bodies in Belgium and French-speaking southerners and Dutch speakers in the north. The antiquated computer systems of the Federal police and the twenty database-deep searches required to vet an individual’s terror ties complete the picture of challenges. In an effort to update the database, Belgian authorities are currently developing a national “hit/no-hit system” which, however, will not come to fruition for another two years.

Some of the major puzzle pieces gathered prior to the attacks in Paris and Brussels include a “Parental Consent for the Jihadbook, and hidden thumb drives, Sim cards, laptops and a cell phone, all seized in police stops of the brothers’ car prior to the attacks, which contained information and/or communication related to extremist topics. Brahim’s name was already on a terror watch list, and Salah’s social media profile picture was an ISIS flag. Furthermore, police received two direct tips of the Abdeslams’ radicalization, one of which reported the brothers’ were planning an “irreversible” event, and the other cautioning of the camaraderie between Salah and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a key figure in the Brussels’ ISIS cell. Yet no investigator was ever assigned to the case, which was ultimately closed by a judge in July 2015, leaving both brothers free to assist their ISIS cohorts in the Paris and Brussels attacks just months later. Belgium’s dysfunctional security system leaves much to be desired, and efforts like improving synergy between security personnel and law enforcement authorities, along with modernizing laws that currently prohibit surveillance of cars and computers, should be strongly considered to advance in a more effective direction.

From The Wall Street Journal:  

“Belgian police had numerous chances to unmask the Islamic State terror cell that later carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks, according to a confidential report prepared for Belgium’s Parliament. They muffed every one. […]

The Comité P report…reveals the extent to which Belgian authorities bungled the investigation of the ISIS cell by ignoring informant tips, failing to heed alerts from other countries and poorly coordinating between law-enforcement branches.”

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