Belgium: Neo-Nazis assault memorial ceremony in center of Brussels for victims of terrorist attacks
Yesterday hundreds of people assembled on the Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels, which has become a location for honoring the victims of last Tuesday's terrorist attacks, despite police and politicians warning on Saturday that the gathering would stretch police resources. The peaceful commemorative ceremony was disrupted by roughly 450 football hooligans and neo-Nazis, according to the Belgian newspaper La Libre.
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Mayor of Brussels Yvan Mayeur warned citizens Saturday that they should not attend the demonstrations scheduled for Sunday so that police would be able to fully dedicate attention to investigating the recent terrorist attacks at Zaventem airport in Brussels and the Maalbeek metro station, which took the lives of more than 30 people. The organizers of the biggest announced event for Sunday, the "March against Fear", then postponed it for "several weeks".
However, despite the calls from police and politicians, hundreds of people assembled on the Place de la Bourse yesterday anyway. The peaceful course of the commemorative ceremony was disrupted by approximately 450 persons shouting slogans like "Belgian hooligans - this is our home!".
Many of the masked thugs assaulted those who had come to honor the memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks. According to the Belga press agency, the assailants arrived by train at the Gare du Nord station and a significant number were apparently under the influence of alcohol.
Police officers used water cannon and after a while managed to separate the rioters from the rest of the people assembled by forming a cordon. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Mayor Mayeur sharply condemned the disruption of the commemorative assembly.
According to Hans Bonte, the Mayor of Vilvoorde, a town north of Brussels where the rioters first assembled, they were "ultra-right hooligans supporting various Premier League football clubs." Politicians' concerns about the safety of the assembly could have been prompted, among other things, by a video published online Saturday on the accounts of social networking sites used to disseminate propaganda by the self-declared Islamic State (IS) organization.
In the video, a radicalized Belgian citizen is shown in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, a bastion of Islamists, threatening new attacks against his country of origin. "You haven't learned from the example of Paris, as you are continuing to fight with Islam and Muslims. That's why I want to tell you that in Brussels you will reap what you have sown," Hicham Chaib says in Flemish on the recording.
"Just like you bomb Muslims with your F-16s, we will fight your people," Chaib says in the video, the authenticity of which the Reuters news agency says it was not able to independently verify. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for Tuesday's assassinations in Brussels in which more than 30 people, including the attackers, died, and also claimed responsibility for last November's terrorist attacks in Paris, which took the lives of 130 people.
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