How did the Brussels suburb become a hotbed of extremism?by Ismail Einashe / November 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
Not far from the heart of Europe’s governing institutions and their attendant bureaucrats, lies Molenbeek, a Brussels district 30 minutes from the city centre. Densely populated, composed of low-rise buildings, and home to a large Arab Muslim population, it is a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, international focus turned to the district. The alleged “mastermind” behind the attacks in Paris which left 130 dead, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was from there. He grew up alongside the Abdeslam brothers, also suspected of involvement in the attacks, and in 2010 he was arrested in Belgium for armed robbery along with Salah Abdeslam, who remains on the run from police. According to a report in The New York Times Molenbeek’s Mayor, Françoise Schepmans, received a list with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area a month before the Paris attacks. This list included the names of the two Abdesalam brothers and their childhood friend, Abaaoud.
Ayoub el-Khazzani, a Moroccan national, who opened fire on a Thalys train between Brussels and Paris, was also from Molenbeek. One of the Charlie Hebdo attackers Amedy Coulibaly, Malian-French, had brought arms from a dealer there, and the French-Algerian Mehdi Nemmouch, who killed four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014 lived in the district at one stage.