Plug security loopholes before a Brussels replay

The terrorist attacks in Brussels have once again evoked the international resolve to defeat terrorism, defend freedom and human rights not only in Europe but also around the world. Posing a new challenge, perpetrators vented their anger over the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the most wanted suspect in November’s attacks in Paris. They seem to send a vengeful message that even the arrest of a ringleader such as Abdeslam could not stop them to unleash further strikes.
IS, which was behind the Paris attacks, has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks, too. Abdeslam skirting the police for four months indicates there are eminent dangers ahead. The reports said he was seized with a cache of weapons that suggested further planned attacks and a wider network of collaborators than previously believed.
Even with suggestions that security in Belgium is lax compared to those of countries such as France, the choice of soft targets by terrorists born and brought up in Europe, makes it exceedingly difficult for security to detect them. The open Western lifestyle is a fertile soil for the terrorist to inflict hardest strikes.
To ease flow at most Western airports, there are no individual checks of passengers entering the main buildings, which are usually crowded with arriving and departing passengers. This makes it an exemplary opportunity for terrorists to carry out their nefarious designs.
Therefore, there are loopholes in the security system that should be addressed to strengthen existing counterterrorism and policing institutions in Europe. But Europol has no real law-enforcement powers — its agents cannot make arrests — and can only get involved in an investigation if a member state requests its help.
After the Paris attacks, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to give Europol the power to create new units to track terrorists and crack down on terrorist groups’ Internet propaganda. Yet due to EU bureaucracy, those changes will not take effect until April 2017.
But better local law enforcement, and greater cooperation among European governments, can make these kinds of attacks less likely. New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Paris — all are reminders that cities are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. For local authorities to provide effective protection against attacks, national and international support is crucial.
The United Arab Emirates has condemned the attackers and said it stands in solidarity with Belgium. A statement released by Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, condemned the “cowardly terrorist acts, which targeted innocent civilians”.
It was a tantalizing moment for Western leaders to celebrate the arrest of a key terrorist suspect of Paris attacks to be followed shortly by the twin attacks in Brussels. Before the attacks, Belgian officials warned that there were dozens more militants at large in the city and that more attacks were being planned.
Gen. Gratien Maire, France’s Vice Chief of Defence warned, “Without stopping the IS militarily and drying up their finances, there’s no way to counter their threat to Europe.”
Aftershocks of the Brussels attacks are being felt elsewhere in Europe. Proponents of Britain leaving the bloc argue that EU membership puts the UK more at terror risk, rather than making it safer as the prime minister asserts. While in Germany, an insurgent party that benefited from opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees immediately warned of the threat of “political Islam”.
Absolutely, the Brussels attacks may increase xenophobic and anti-immigration sentiment across the EU, but an international cooperation to defuse tensions in the Middle East could be a key in fighting terrorism.
The EU should also clear its own backyard where militants leave and come back to wreak more havoc. There alone, it could suffocate and liquidate the
terrorist network.

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