The rotunda of the French Community of Belgium Cultural centre : 'Le Botanique' (Kruidtuin) is seen from the rooftop of the Hotel 'The Hoxton' on June 2, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


‘Terror teens planned attack on Brussels concert hall’


Belgian police have arrested teenage terror suspects who allegedly aimed to strike in the heart of Brussels.

Four boys, aged between 15 and 18 years old, are suspected of being linked to violent Islamist extremism.

Officers raided the teens’ homes on the morning of March 3 after investigators decided they had become radicalised.

The 15-year-old suspect was not at his house during the raids but was discovered at the home of another of the boys in Brussels.

Despite the four living relatively far apart, the French-speaking youngsters had apparently found each other through online chat applications, allegedly discussing the Islamic State and the possibility of launching their own terror attack.

They were, according to the police, already planning to set a date and allegedly considering a strike on the Botanique, a well-known city concert hall, news channel RTL claimed.

No weapons or explosives were found during searches of the boys’ homes. Police are now examining their laptops and mobile phones.

Because they allegedly discussed violent acts and were looking to buy weapons on the “Dark Web”, a part of the internet not visible to search engines, the police decided to move in.

Media outlet Het Laatste Nieuws reported that officers had acted a day earlier than originally planned following a press leak.

The three minors must now appear before the juvenile court though judges could consider trying the 16- and 17-year-old as adults. The 18-year-old will appear before an investigative judge.

Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt said: “The suspects are very young. This is unfortunately a confirmation of the current threat picture.

“It is not the first time that we see young people radicalising very quickly especially through social media, through closed communication groups.”

The news came just days after the Belgian Co-ordination Body for Threat Assessment (OCAD) reported there were 332 threat reports last year potentially related to terrorism or extremism. That is an increase of 41 per cent on the previous year.

According to OCAD, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the October 16 attack against Swedish nationals in Brussels played a major role in the rise.

About seven per cent of those threats were described as “serious”.

Belgium’s overall threat level has increased to level three out of a maximum four following the October 16 attacks. For a brief period after that incident, the Brussels region was put at the top level four.

The State Security Service (VSSE) issued a warning in its annual report at the beginning of this year about the growing number of minors showing up in files pertaining to ideological extremism.

The origin of suspected individuals is also apparently diversifying, with an increase in the number of people with roots in Central Asia, the report stated.