News / Europe

    Brussels Terror Probe Continues; Protests Take Right-Wing Turn

    • Easter Sunday started out peacefully, with crowds gathering to honor the victims of the bombing in Brussels, Belgium, March 27, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • Over the course of the week, the steps of Brussel’s stock exchange building have been decorated with flags from all over the world and messages of solidarity with the victims, including this banner that says “Not in the name of Islam” in French. (H.Murdock/VOA)
    • When right-wing activists showed up at the memorial, some locals called them ‘fascists’ as they shouted anti-Islamic slogan. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • Already heavily guarded, the Easter-day memorial was quickly surrounded by police when right-wing activists showed up shouting anti-Islamic slogans and reportedly harassing minority groups in Brussels. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • Police in riot gear prepare to end the right-wing protest by pushing the activists back to the train station. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • The streets were trashed by right wing activists as police and the army pushed them towards the train station in Brussels. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • Calling themselves ‘Casuals Against Terrorism’ the group set off flares and was eventually repelled with water cannons. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    • Riot police in formation as they slowly back right-wing protesters out of the squarein Brussels. (H. Murdock/VOA)
    Heather MurdockWilliam Gallo

    As Belgian riot police marched into formation accompanied by water-trucks, the crowd on the steps of the stock exchange in Brussels cheered.  Right-wing activists some locals call ‘fascists’ had arrived at the quiet memorial to those killed in last week's terror attacks, shouting anti-immigration slogans and performing Nazi salutes.
    “Always when there is something positive, they come to make it horrible,” said Monique Starck, a Belgian homemaker, who was hurried off just as the gathering started to look like a riot.  Since the bombings on Tuesday that killed at least 28 people and wounded about 300, mourners have been in this square to express their solidarity with the victims.

    The bombings on Tuesday killed at least 31 people, including four U.S. citizens. On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his condolences over the telephone to the parents of Justin and Stephanie Shults, a young American couple who died in the attacks.  Later Sunday, the U.S. State Department confirmed the deaths, but not the identifications, of two more Americans killed in the attacks. 

    Ever since the bombings that wounded nearly 300 people, mourners have been in the Brussels square to express their solidarity with the victims. 
    After the right-wingers stormed the square, a few bottles and punches were thrown, loud flares were set off and the police, the army and other security forces surrounded the mayhem.  For the most part, the group, calling itself ‘Casuals Against Terrorism,’ and the people already in the square to mourn confined the violence to intense verbal clashes.
    Water cannons finally dispersed the group after they were pushed back towards the train station, over-turning trash bins and braking bottles along the way.

    WATCH: Police Fire Water Cannon to Disperse Protesters

    As Brussels Terror Probe Continues, Protests Take Right-Wing Turni
    March 27, 2016 3:48 PM
    Police fire water cannon to disperse anti-immigrant protesters who chanted football-style slogans, performed Nazi salutes and confronted mourners

    A "March Against Fear" scheduled to take place Sunday was canceled because authorities said the gathering would draw resources away from the investigation into Tuesday's attacks. But a group of mourners still gathered in a square in the city center.

    Even before the activists arrived, some locals noticed army and police presence was heavy in the area compared to recent days.

    "When I see so much security, I get scared," said Mustafa Mohammad, an Iraqi refugee, wondering why the police seemed more concerned than the day before. 

    The Belgian capital remains on edge, as several of those involved in the plot remain on the loose. But investigators appear to have made several advances in the case in recent days.

    On Sunday, Brussels police carried out 13 new raids in and around the capital, detaining nine people for questioning in connection with terrorism. Five were later released, the federal prosecutor said.

    The statement gave no information about the searches and did not specifically mention the Brussels attacks, which killed 28 people, as well as three suicide bombers.

    A family lights a candle at a memorial site at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, March 27, 2016.
    A family lights a candle at a memorial site at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, March 27, 2016.

    Algerian arrested in Italy

    In a sign of the far-reaching nature of the terror network, Italian police on Sunday arrested an Algerian man suspected of making false IDs used by suspects in the Brussels attacks, as well as the Paris terror attacks in November.

    State police say the man, Djamal Eddine Ouali, was arrested Saturday near the town of Salerno. Officials have said he could soon be extradited to Belgium.

    On Saturday, Belgian prosecutors identified and issued an arrest warrant for a new suspect in the Brussels attacks. The federal prosecutor's office said in a statement it issued an arrest for a man only identified as Faycal C. for "involvement in a terrorist group, terrorist killings and attempted terrorist killings.”

    WATCH: Heather Murdock reports from Brussels

    Heather Murdock Reports from Brusselsi
    March 27, 2016 4:22 PM
    Right-wing, anti-immigrant protesters confronted mourners gathered in central Brussels to remember victims of the country's worst-ever terror attack

    The statement did not confirm that Faycal C. is the third Brussels airport suicide bomber seen in airport security camera video alongside two men who blew themselves up there.  Belgian media reported that a man named Faycal Cheffou was suspected of fleeing the Brussels airport.

    On Friday, Belgian prosecutors said three people were detained in a Brussels counterterrorism operation prompted by the arrest Thursday of a Frenchman in the Paris area suspected of plotting a new attack. The Belgian prosecutor's office confirmed in a statement that Friday’s arrests were conducted in three districts of the capital - Schaerbeek, Forest and Saint-Gilles. Two of the three suspects were wounded in the leg.

    One of those men has been identified as Abderamane A., who was charged Sunday with participation in a terror group, according to prosecutors.

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