The terrorist attack that targeted Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018 has uncovered another way of disseminating Jihadi ideology, one of the most complicated problems against the European anti-terrorism services.
Four people were killed and four others police personnel were injured by a Belgian criminal extremist on his day release. So, released convicts and prisoners, besides the threats could be imposed by the return of Islamic State (IS) foreign militants, represent a gun barrel that unprecedentedly serves Jihadism as terrorists found another way to compensate the losses IS suffered since being defeated in Syria and Iraq in 2017.
Europe’s prisons are considered good platforms for extremists to recruit others; the attacker of Belgium shooting Benjamin Herman illustrated multidimensional problems posed by the phenomenon of extremism inside prisons. Herman was arrested over a series of charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for armed robbery. When he was serving time, he embraced “extremist ideology” and influenced by a jihadist called Yassine Dibi.
Dibi, who is serving his sentence of 32 years for crimes of robbery and hostage-taking, had embraced extremist ideology and became an influential jihadist among other inmates; he recruited suicide bombers of the 2016 Brussels Ibrahim and Khalid Bakraoui, who had served time over robbery before being released in 2014 and joining IS militants in Syria. A year later, the two brothers returned to in Europe and participated in Paris attacks, which claimed lives of 130 people on November 13, 2015.
Dibi succeeded to create a cell of terrorists carried out attacks a number of attacks in Brussels, Zaventem, and Liege over the past two years, putting a question mark on the security bodies’ preparation for facing the activities of extremism dissemination.
Dibi is not the only extremist inmate inside Belgian prisons. It has been announced by the Belgian Ministry of Justice that a total of 450 inmates have been labeled “radical,” including 237 were put under the prison regular supervision due to their threats. Also, 46 others were branded “extremely dangerous” due to roles of spreading extremist ideologies.
However, the strict security supervision did not foil Herman’s plot when he obtained a two-day release and his crime.
Such observable phenomenon does not exist only in Belgium, but also in France, where the security situation is more complicated. French General Prosecutor François Molins stated on May 28 that the number of prisoners convicted with “terrorist attacks” reached 504 out of 70,000 inmates in France. Over the past three years, the 504 terrorist inmates succeeded to make 1,500 criminals to embrace extremist ideologies.
Most of those “Jihadi” inmates who sentenced before 2016 are short-term prisoners as France started criminalizing extremist activities following 2015 Paris attacks. Consequently, about 500 of those prisoners will be released by 2020, Molins said.
What looks extremely dangerous that 40 other prisoners, who had been convicted in terrorist crimes over the past ten years, will be released after serving their time by the end of 2019. Moreover, 20 inmates of them will be released in 2019.
Therefore, those prisoners could join their jihadist fellows after being released, fueling fear for, anti-terrorism security services as those “Jihadi prisoners” could be “the masterminds behind future attacks. One of those extremists is Jamal Bagal, the first blue-eyed al-Qaeda militant. He recruited the two al-Qaeda militants Said and Sharif Quashie (brothers) ten years before attacking French magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.