The fact that today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels occurred just days after the capture of Salah Abdeslam has fueled speculation that this was revenge. Alternatively, some suggest that the perpetrators wanted to show they still are on the front foot.
However, Abdeslam reportedly told his captors that a set of attacks was in the works. That the attacks followed the capture so closely may be due to fear by the terrorists that Abdeslam might provide information which would enable authorities to thwart the next wave of attacks.
For me, the main lesson of recent events in Brussels is that the terrorists there must have considerable support, and even more sympathy, from local Muslims. Abdeslam was able not just to hide for months in Brussels, but also apparently to plan new attacks.
In addition, Mohamed Abrini, another Belgian terrorist, has been on the loose since the November attacks in Paris. A childhood friend of Abdeslam, he is accused of playing a major role in the planning and logistics of those attacks.
Similarly, Najim Laachraoui, known as Soufiane Kayal, has evaded capture. He is known to have traveled, using false papers, with Abdeslam and Mohamed Belkaïd, the Algerian who was killed in the raid that captured Abdeslam.
The Guardian concludes:
It is clear from the amount of time Abdeslam spent on the run that he was looked after by dozens, if not scores of contacts. This is the reality of contemporary Islamic extremism in Europe. It is not about so-called lone wolves or solitary actors, but about a small but significant number of people who are deeply embedded in broader communities or neighbourhoods.
Given how deeply embedded the terrorists appear to be, it is doubtful that the number of local Muslims who support and/or sympathize with them is small.
As Scott observes, even “Islamophobics” have real enemies. More than a few of them.
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