Deadly Attacks in Brussels after Counterterrorism Raids
Three bombs have exploded in Brussels this morning, two targeting Zaventem Airport and one that struck a subway station in the Maalbeek neighborhood, near several European Union offices. Belgian officials have confirmed that the bombings are terrorist attacks and that at least one of the explosions at the airport was a suicide bomber. At least ...
Three bombs have exploded in Brussels this morning, two targeting Zaventem Airport and one that struck a subway station in the Maalbeek neighborhood, near several European Union offices. Belgian officials have confirmed that the bombings are terrorist attacks and that at least one of the explosions at the airport was a suicide bomber. At least 21 people have been reported killed so far, according to fire authorities in Brussels. Though the Islamic State has not asserted responsibility for the attack, backers of the group have expressed support for the attacks on social media. The blasts come days after a series of police raids in Brussels last week in which an Algerian militant, Mohamed Belkaid, was killed in a shootout, and Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris attackers, was arrested. Other militants believed to have been trained in Syria escaped the raids, and yesterday reporting on Abdeslam’s interrogation noted that Belgian authorities had discovered the Islamic State’s operations in Europe were larger than previously realized.
Refugees Continue to Flee to Europe as Deal with Turkey Enters Force
UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, expressed concern about the speed with which the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees will be implemented, noting Greece’s particular lack of preparation. Greece is currently waiting on hundreds of European staff, who have been promised to help process refugees before transporting them to Turkey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the removal of refugees to Turkey will likely not begin until April 4. In the meantime, refugees continue to arrive or die trying to transit the Mediterranean. 1,500 refugees were rescued at sea over the weekend alone.
- U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was concerned about Russian threats to carry out unilateral punitive strikes to enforce the ceasefire in Syria, saying it could unravel tenuous U.S.-Russian cooperation on Syria; de Mistura is continuing to mediate proximity talks in Geneva, though the regime delegation is continuing to refuse to talk about the issue of political transition.
- One Turkish soldier was killed and six others were wounded in a bombing in the city of Nusaybin, where Turkish troops have been fighting with PKK forces; the city has been under a round-the-clock curfew for more than a week.
- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is still under pressure from supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to implement anti-corruption reforms and form a cabinet of non-partisan technocrats; Sadr is reportedly coordinating his political position with Iraq’s senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
- An Egyptian court sentenced a 17-year-old girl to eight years in prison for posting in a Facebook group, “Students against the Coup,” and allegedly joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which her family denies.
- An Iraqi man who fled to Finland was convicted of a war crime — the desecration of a corpse — and given a suspended 16-month jail sentence after photos on Facebook of him holding the severed head of an Islamic State fighter in Tikrit were found by authorities.
Arguments and Analysis
“Exporting Jihad” (George Packer, The New Yorker)
“Kamal had joined the Jasmine Revolution, but he was angry that it had not improved the prospects of young Tunisians like him. For a few months, he worked at an Airbus plant in the south of Tunis, but the salary was so low that he decided he was better off trying to make a living in Tunisia’s informal economy. Most of the men in his family worked in the police force, but Kamal had been rejected at the recruitment office, without explanation. He glanced at the other tables in the garden café, lowered his voice, and outlined what he called ‘the project.’ He said, ‘The Islamic State will rule the world. There will be no flag other than the flag of Allah, and there will be justice and peace all over the world. Those who have done wrong, who have killed people, will be killed under the Koran. Some will die in public trials, in front of everybody.’ He went on, ‘In Tunisia, the President and all his officials will be removed. They’ll get what they deserve. They are infidels.’”
“There Is No Russian Withdrawal from Syria” (Dmitry Gorenburg and Michael Kofman, War on the Rocks)
“This maneuver is more about political perceptions than military reality. It constitutes a political reframing of Russia’s intervention in order to normalize Moscow’s military presence in Syria, and make it permanent, while convincing Russians at home that the campaign is over. Putin’s statement is yet another successful effort to achieve a domestic and international publicity coup. The ‘withdrawal’ announcement is not about how Russia leaves, but about how it stays in Syria. Those who have doubts should watch the actual video of Putin ordering Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to initiate the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria. He orders that Russia’s existing bases in Tartus and Hmeymim continue to operate at present levels. In addition, Russia’s defense minister is to ensure that they are fully defended from land, sea, and air. The worrisome S-400 long range air defense, along with shorter range systems, will remain in place, a point emphasized in later statement by Vladimir Putin. Russia’s main military bases will continue operations: with naval cover, a ground contingent for force protection, and an unknown number of troops still on the ground to advise Syrian forces.”
-J. Dana Stuster
JONAS ROOSENS/AFP/Getty Images