Belgium's New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) political party chairman and Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever was the target of an assassination plot. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET


Islamist jailed for plot to assassinate N-VA President


A criminal court in Belgium has convicted a 21-year-old Islamist of plotting to assassinate Bart De Wever, President of the N-VA party and Mayor of Antwerp.

Identified by the court under the alias of “Elias EA”, the man was found by the Belgian court to have been the ringleader of a plot to kill the Flemish politician, with four others also receiving prison terms following the trial on June 5.

According to the court, the 21-year-old Elias led the group of would-be assassins, who were reportedly inspired by radical Islamism.

Initially, his group was said to have planned an attack on a police commissioner’s office but later decided to try to kill the centre-right De Wever.

They looked for his private address and pictures and reportedly wanted to execute the attack once the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan in 2023 was over.

“The attack was only prevented by the timely intervention of the security forces,” the court said in its ruling.

It added that Elias wanted to “disrupt the basic political structures of the country and instil serious fear in the population”.

By targeting a politician and a police station, the group wanted to hit “symbols of our society and public order”.

The public prosecutor had accused them of having “clear targets and a concrete timing”.

“The first defendant was the but was indoctrinated by the second,” the court stated.

“He gathered around him a number of people who offered him material and moral help to carry out his terrorist plan.”

According to Belgian news outlet VRT, Elias chose De Wever because of a headscarf ban in Antwerp, where staff at the counters of city services are not allowed to wear visible religious symbols.

That was despite the fact that the policy was put in place before De Wever or his party were in power in the port city.

Elias first came to the attention of the police after he placed radical posts on social media.

On Instagram, he shared propaganda calling for an armed Islamic struggle. On TikTok, he shared videos glorifying terror attacks in Belgium, Brussels and Zaventem airport.

Elias called for decapitating the enemies of Islam and support of the Islamic State (IS).

By tracking him online, the police found he had contacts with other extremist Muslims in different Belgian cities with whom he exchanged radical religious verses and videos regarding Salafism, a school of thought that surfaced in the second half of the 19th century as a reaction to the spread of European ideas.

One of those in the group is said to be a radicalised youth who, at the age of 17, was suspected of attempting an attack on the police commissioner’s office in Verviers in 2020.

Since then, he has been on the list of the Co-Ordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA) — an independent Belgian centre of knowledge and expertise in charge of assessing terrorist and extremist threats in Belgium, as well as against Belgian citizens and interests abroad

The group communicated via restricted and encrypted chat rooms. Investigators used wiretaps and followed the suspects. At one point, an undercover agent was deployed, which enabled the investigators to penetrate the network.

In mid-March 2023, the police discovered the group was attempting to secure weapons and explosives. Elias reportedly told the members to find a way to buy a Kalashnikov. He also wanted an IS flag.

That triggered the police to move in.

On March 27, 2023, searches were carried out on properties across the country. Several suspects were detained with six people – five men and one woman – being formally charged with terrorist offences.

One person who was allegedly part of the group, according to the prosecutor, was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Alongside 13 years in prison, Elias was also fined €16,000 and barred from his civil and political rights for 10 years.

In Belgium, people can be stripped of certain civil rights, often as a consequence of a criminal conviction. This can include losing the right to vote, hold public office or serve in certain professions.

In a reaction to VRT De Wever said: “I was very shocked. I have received death threats many times before and had shrugged them off a bit.

“But this was no laughing matter. I have to congratulate the police for the investigation and the judiciary for taking very swift action on this.”

De Wever’s N-VA party is polling in second place for the upcoming European Parliament elections. The politician is seen as a potential future Belgian prime minister.