Tag Archives: Brussels

George Soros Higher education Europe European Union Italy news

Financier says his Central European University is still under threat folllowing Viktor Orbán’s curbs on foreign ownership

George Soros has accused the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán of building a “mafia state”, as he warned the fate of the Central European University he founded still hangs in the balance.

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Tillerson To Push NATO Allies On Military Spending, Press Russia On Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Brussels to attend a March 31 NATO meeting that was rescheduled to allow him to attend.

A senior State Department official told reporters that Tillerson will push alliance members to increase their defense spending and will work with allies to press Russia to abide by the Minsk agreement to end the crisis in Ukraine.

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Parts of UK that voted for Brexit may be hardest hit, study finds

Researchers say Wales and north-east are among areas most vulnerable to loss of funding, tariffs on exports and shortage of European workers

Wales is more dependent on EU grants than other areas and faces the possibility of high tariffs on its exports, such as lamb, the analysis found. Photograph: Ben

Several parts of Britain that voted to leave the European Union are among the most vulnerable to the economic impact of Brexit, according to new research published as the government prepares to trigger article 50.

Continue reading Parts of UK that voted for Brexit may be hardest hit, study finds

EU threatens UK with astronomical £500BILLION Brexit DIVORCE BILL

THE EUROPEAN Parliament’s top Brexit negotiator has said Britain could face a £500billion (€600bn) Brexit divorce bill – ten times the figure initially expected.

Late last year it was widely reported Eurocrats were planning on slapping the UK with a £50billion (€60billion) exit bill as punishment for voting to abandon Brussels in the June referendum.

The EU defended the demand as it argued Britain had unpaid budget commitments, pension liabilities and loan guarantees to honour.

Continue reading EU threatens UK with astronomical £500BILLION Brexit DIVORCE BILL

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

A Russia-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (12 January).

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EXCLUSIVE: Belgian Intelligence Had Precise Warning That Airport Targeted for Bombing

Attack in subway likely also known in advance by Belgian and Western agencies; attack plan was formulated at de-facto ISIS capital of Raqqa, in Syria.

The Belgian security services, as well as other Western intelligence agencies, had advance and precise intelligence warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Belgium on Tuesday, Haaretz has learned.
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The security services knew, with a high degree of certainty, that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and, apparently, for the subway as well.

Despite the advance warning, the intelligence and security preparedness in Brussels, where most of the European Union agencies are located, was limited in its scope and insufficient for the severity and immediacy of the alert.

As far as is known, the attacks were planned by the headquarters of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria, which it has pronounced as the capital of its Islamic caliphate.

The terror cell responsible for the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday was closely associated with the network behind the series of attacks in Paris last November. At this stage, it appears that both were part of the same terrorist infrastructure, connected at the top by the terrorist Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in both the preparation for the Paris attacks and its implementation.

Abdeslam escaped from Paris after the November attacks, hid out in Brussels and was arrested last week by the Belgian authorities.
Abdeslam’s arrest was apparently the trigger for Tuesday’s attacks, due to the concern in ISIS that he might give information about the planned attacks under interrogation, particularly in the light of reports that he was cooperating with his captors.

The testimony of the detained terrorist, alongside other intelligence information, part of which concerned ISIS operations in Syria, should have resulted in much more stringent security preparedness in crowded public places in Brussels, along with a heightened search for the cell.

As of now, the search is focused on the terrorist Najim Laachraoui, who created the explosive vests used by the bombers and escaped from the airport at the last moment.

There is concern, however, that other cells connected to ISIS in Western Europe will attempt to carry out additional attacks in the near future, either in Belgium or in other countries involved in the war against the terror organization in Syria and Iraq.

At least 31 people were killed and 260 wounded in the terrorist bombings at the Brussels airport and in the subway system on Tuesday. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by ISIS.

Belgian authorities have named the two airport attackers as brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui. Laachraoui, who was photographed with the brothers at the airport and was observed fleeing the scene, is the subject of a massive manhunt.

The Belgium Question: Why Is a Small Country Producing So Many Jihadists?

Relative to its population, no other country in Europe sends as many young...

Relative to the size of its population, no other country in Europe sends as many young jihadists to Syria as Belgium does. But why? Some say one problem lies with the fractured nature of the country itself.

Chantal Lebon last saw her son at a bus stop in Brussels. That was two years ago in October “at exactly 10:25 p.m.,” she says. Abdel had driven his mother there in a car, stopped in a parking spot and lifted her suitcase onto the sidewalk.

“Au revoir, maman,” he said. “Au revoir, mon fils,” she replied. It was only months later that she would again see her son’s face — in a YouTube video. It showed him wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and holding a Kalashnikov. The video was stamped with the flag used by the Islamic State in Syria.

Chantal Lebon is a small, energetic 64-year-old retired nursery school teacher with blue eyes and graying hair. She has come to a café to tell us the story of her son Abdel, the story of a Belgian child who became a radical Islamist fighter at the age of 23. Abdel had nothing to do with the attack plans in Belgium, his mother says. But, she confirms, her son is a jihadist.

On the way to the Brussels café, she saw the soldiers standing guard in front of police stations, court houses and the city hall. The Belgian government raised the country’s terror alert to the second highest level after officials were able to foil attacks targeting police and Jewish schools earlier this month.

At the European Parliament, events with more than 100 foreign guests have been banned and a military vehicle guards the entrance to the European Commission.

Since Jan. 15, the day two potential attackers died in Verviers during a police raid and the terror threat in the country became obvious to all, much has changed in Belgium.

Thirteen terror suspects have been arrested in the country this month, but the suspected ringleader of the alleged attack plans, a 27-year-old named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, remains at large and is thought to be in Greece. “I pray that Allah destroys all those who oppose Him,” he said in a video. Like Chantal Lebon’s son, Abaaoud also lived in Molenbeek, a district in western Brussels.

Because she is worried that her son Abdel could be behind the next terror plot in Belgium, she would rather remain anonymous and her name, as well as that of her son, has been changed for this story.

Belgian police block a street in central Verviers during the anti-terror raids...

Tiny Belgium and the Jihad

Up to 4,000 Europeans have joined the jihad in Syria, with 1,200 of them coming from France and between 500 and 600 each from Great Britain and Germany according to the most recent estimates by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization in London.

Tiny Belgium, with its population of 11 million, has sent fully 440 young men to the battlefields of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. Relative to population size, no other Western European country has sent more.

Abdel grew up with his family in the Arabic quarter of Molenbeek. The Brussels region provides home to people from over 100 different countries: from Congo and Morocco, but also increasingly from the Middle East or Chechnya.

New immigrants arrive in a traditionally Catholic country whose Jewish and Muslim communities are growing — and a state that has been suffering from extremely high sovereign debt levels since the mid-1980s.

Abdel didn’t grow up in poverty — his father was a teacher — nor did he have any problems in school. But because his father is from Africa, he is dark skinned and his mother said he never really felt like he belonged as a result. Furthermore, other children made fun of him.

In the aftermath of the terror raids, Belgium raised its terror threat level...

Once he got his high school diploma, he moved into an apartment of his own, though his mother came by regularly to clean. It was then that he told her that he had converted to Islam and she noticed he had begun learning Arabic. His room was suddenly full of books and his mother was initially pleased because it seemed as though her son was pursuing something worthwhile.

But Abdel’s changes became increasingly pronounced. Before long, he began wearing a djellaba, the robe traditionally worn in the Maghreb, and when visiting his mother, he would use the bathroom carpet for praying. He no longer touched his favorite food, lasagna, because the meat wasn’t halal.

On Saturdays, he would take to the streets to hand out food to the poor. “Mother, please convert to Islam too,” he often asked, she says, “so that we will meet again in paradise.”

Never Complained

His mother pulls a tablet out of her bag to show the YouTube video. Five men with the black Islamic State flag are seen standing in a parched landscape.

One of the fighters says: “God willing, we will carry the flag of victory to Jerusalem and into the White House. God willing, this man from Belgium will show us what a good Muslim is.” Abdel looks happy in the video.

Abdel’s mother says he would call from time to time, saying that he was engaged in humanitarian aid in Syria. He also told her of friends who had been killed, but he never complained, she says.

Eventually, Abdel’s mother stopped asking when he planned on returning. Her son also told her about air strikes carried out by the US. And at the end of December, he said: “Because the telephone is being monitored, it is too dangerous to talk, mama.” He then hung up and they haven’t spoken since.

In Molenbeek, where Abdel used to live, the streets are full on this evening. Groups of men stand in front of the cafés and a vegetable seller is packing up his tomatoes. Here, on the fourth floor of a narrow row house, Montasser AlDe’emeh opens the door. AlDe’emeh has become a popular interview partner of late for those wanting to know why Belgium is losing its youth to the jihad.

Twenty-six years old, AlDe’emeh was born to Palestinian parents in a refugee camp in Jordan, but grew up in Molenbeek. He majored in Islamic studies in college and is currently writing his dissertation: “Western Fighters in the Context of International Jihadism.” There is likely no other academic in Belgium who is closer to the scene than he is.

“We are living in a divided country,” AlDe’emeh says. Many young Muslims lack an identity, he says, adding that they don’t feel Belgian because Belgium as a country doesn’t really exist. Flemish, Walloons and the German minority live side-by-side, he says, carefully segregated in regions and language communities following myriad state reform efforts. “The clear structures of an Islamic theocracy are thus more attractive for many,” he says.

Belgium has been in the spotlight this month after raids on Jan. 15 broke up an...

Nutella in Turkey

Furthermore, most Muslims in the country don’t really feel as though they are represented politically. They used to vote for the Flemish Social Democrats, AlDe’emeh says, but then the government implemented a ban on wearing the burqa and niqab in public.

Today, the influx of radical Islamists is particularly significant in Flemish cities like Antwerp, Mechelen and Vilvoorde in addition to Brussels. It is precisely the same region where the right-wing populist party Vlaams Belang has spent years hounding the Muslim population.

Islam, as practiced in Belgium, is also failing to reach young people, AlDe’emeh says. There are 150 mosques in Flanders, but Arabic is spoken in almost all of them, he says, a language that second-generation immigrant youth can’t understand. Instead, they stumble across hate preachers on YouTube and see the suffering of people in Syria. “They travel to Syria to heal themselves,” AlDe’emeh says.

In June 2013, he visited a group of Belgian jihadists in Syria; a middleman brought him to the western part of Aleppo. The Belgians were living there in a villa belonging to Syrians who had fled the country. AlDe’emeh spent 15 days with the fighters, who belonged to the Islamist group al-Nusra Front.

During the day, they patrolled the front lines and afterwards they would sit on pillows holding their AK-47s and talk about the fight against Bashar Assad. In the evenings, they went swimming or snuck across the border into Turkey to buy Nutella.

The structures inside the al-Nusra Front, AlDe’emeh says, are hierarchical. There is an emir who grants permission to those, like AlDe’emeh himself, who wish to visit. Beneath him are the regional heads who are responsible for specific provinces. They, in turn, control commanders who are responsible for Syrian and Western fighters.

“Everyone knew exactly what he was supposed to do,” AlDe’emeh says. “The Belgians were in good spirits. They liked the structures.” Likely also because al-Nusra, similar to Islamic State, made young men like Abdel full-fledged members of a nation, fictional though it may be.

One of the suspects in the Sharia4Belgium trial arrives in the courthouse in...

Dreaming of Lasagna

In the search for a sense of belonging, many Muslims joined Sharia4Belgium, a terror group that is currently the target of judicial proceedings in Antwerp. Forty-six alleged members of the organization have been charged, all suspected of having recruited fighters in Belgium for the jihad in Syria or of fighting there themselves.

They also stand accused of having kept the US journalist James Foley prisoner. He was later decapitated by Islamic State. A verdict in the case is expected to come in February.

SPIEGEL was able to speak with one of the group’s members by telephone. His name is Younes Delefortrie, a 26-year-old who was born in Belgium and who speaks perfect English.

He says he spent two months in Homs, but insists that he didn’t kill anybody. He says he joined Sharia4Belgium because he was uninterested in an Islam that didn’t take its own rules seriously.

In Belgium, Delefortrie says, he felt discriminated against, specifically complaining that he hadn’t been allowed to pray at work.

He also said that there were so many regulations pertaining to the construction of mosques that when they were finished, they looked like garages. “If you spend years pounding on someone, it is only logical that he fights back,” Delefortrie says.

Abdel’s mother says that she now regularly meets in Brussels with 15 other mothers whose sons are also fighting in Syria. They met on the day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Abdel’s mother told the gathered women of a dream she had had after seeing so much blood on the television. “I saw my son walking on a street in Paris. He wasn’t carrying a weapon. He was peaceful.” In the dream, Abdel then came home. He sat down silently in the kitchen and put his hands on the table. She went over to the stove and cooked him his favorite meal. Lasagna.

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A personal comprehensive compendum of related personal thought, diary, articles geared towards championing and alleviating the course of humanity towards the achievement of a greater society whereby all the inhabitants of the world are seeing as one and treated equally without any division along religious affinity, social class and tribal affliation.This is all about creating a platform where everybody interested in the betterment of the society will have a voice in the scheme of things going on in the larger society.This is an outcome of deep yearning of the author to have his voice heard across the globe.The change needed by all and sundry all over the globe starts with us individually.Our world will be a better place if every effort at our disposal is geared towards taking a little simple step that rally around thinking outside the box.

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