Authorities in Belgium have arrested two people from the country after they were suspected of being involved in a New Year’s Eve terror plot aimed at several locations in the city of Brussels. According to a CNN report, the authorities have identified the two men as being part of a local Muslim biker gang. The names of the arrested individuals have not been revealed yet, but both are confirmed members of the Muslim biker gang known as the Kamikaze Riders.
The duo from the biker gang were allegedly plotting to attack several “emblematic sites” spread across the Belgian capital, Brussels, on New Year’s Eve. The list of places that the two members of the biker gang targeted included the Brussel’s Grand Palace. They were also targeting other crowded places across the city, the Belgian federal prosecutors office confirmed on Tuesday. A counter-terrorism official from the country added that several police and military facilities across the city were also under the threat of being attacked by members from the Muslim biker gang.
Meanwhile, Belgian authorities have ruled out the possibility of ISIS being behind the terror plot. They did, however, add that the terror plot was certainly inspired by the November attacks in Paris that left over 130 people dead. Authorities also conducted massive search operations across the country, including several regions near Brussels and the nearby province of Flemish Brabant. On Sunday and Monday, the search was expanded to the eastern city of Liege. Officials remain tight-lipped about any possible evidences collected following the raids. They did, however, confirm that the items recovered from the members of the Muslim biker gang included several computer equipment and accessories, military type training outfits, and some ISIS propaganda material.
While the authorities declined to release the names of the two arrested Muslim biker gang members, they did add that they were based in the Brussels and Vilvoorde areas. The duo allegedly also had previous criminal records and were involved in a robbery in the past. The two individuals also had easy access to weapons, the CNN report further added. In fact, the easy access to weapons is the reason Belgian officials decided not to risk an attack and preemptively arrest the two men.
Authorities now add that the two men are being charged with several sections of the Belgian anti-terrorism law. One of the men is being charged for being the key conspirator while the second man is a co-accused. The key conspirator also faces charges of “recruiting to commit terror attacks.” “playing a leading role in the threat of attacks,” and “participating in the activities of a terrorist group as a leader and recruiting to commit terrorist offenses as author or co-author.”
The second man from the Muslim biker gang would be charged for “playing a leading role in the threat of attacks and taking part in the activities of a terrorist group as an author or co-author.”
There have been several threats of ISIS-style attacks across several European and U.S. cities since the Paris attacks. While several of the threats were eventually untrue, authorities treat each such threats seriously. The arrests of the two men is also important considering the fact that many of the people involved in the French terrorist attacks were known to be in Belgium — before and after the attacks. Islam is by far the fastest growing religion in Belgium and currently accounts for just over 5 to 6 percent of the population of the country. The number of Muslims in the country is set to dramatically rise in the next few decades, raising concerns of an increase in the number of radical elements within the population.
[Image Via Wouter Hagens/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0]