Early reports from Brussels are that two coordinated attacks have taken place with the first being at the Brussels Airport Departure Terminal and the second within the Brussels Subway system. It is being reported that there have been attacks at two locations within the Brussels Airport and three subway stations have been attacked. As with all information right after an attack more accurate information will flow after detailed investigations.
With the arrest of Salah Abdesalam on Friday it appears that the ISIS terrorist network in Brussels has sped up its attacks that were in the pipeline. After the arrest of Abdelsalam it had been reported that he has been “cooperating” with law enforcement. Members of the ISIS Brussels terror network would have been worried about what information Abdelsalam might be providing and thus would have sped up any operations that had been planned.
It took Brussels law enforcement authorities 120 days to finally capture Europe’s most wanted terrorist who escaped from Paris and returned to his hometown of Brussels. With the raid that captured Abdelsalam it has been reported that police seized a large cache of weapons that had been gathered for another potential attack.
Transportation in Brussels from the airport, trains and the subway system have all been shut down. American Airlines at the Brussels airport is reporting that all its employees are accounted for with no reported injuries. Brussels is a hub for reaching across Europe and such all of Europe needs to be on high alert. The ease of movement in Europe and the number of individuals that have traveled to Syria and returned to Brussels gives great concern. European borders are too open. The network of ISIS linked fighters and large communities of disenfranchised Muslims from other countries will continue to cause problems. It is not that intelligence and law enforcement have not known of active plots and the large number of active fighters in Brussels. Unfortunately, this is not the last ISIS inspired attack we will see in Europe.
Last week in Baltimore, Maryland I gave a talk to a corporate security division on the “Anatomy of a Terrorist Attack.” These days terrorist are becoming more sophisticated being able to seize hostages, conduct firearms attacks and suicide bombings while executing all three types of attacks simultaneously. Having the skill sets to build TATP devices, use encrypted messaging apps and being able to move terrorists unhindered to the targets are just a few things that law enforcement and the intelligence community have to think about. The Terrorism Research Center since the Mumbai Attacks has been teaching that all law enforcement need to be prepared to deal with multiple location terrorist attacks using firearms and suicide bombing attacks. What we are seeing in Brussels today is just another example of terrorists doing just that-attacking heavily populated transportation areas that are soft targets.