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Faculty Expert Discusses the Attacks in Brussels

March 23, 2016

March 22, 2016
By Jamie Tarabay

Chip Underhill
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7326 (Desk)

Could Authorities Have Stopped The Brussels Attacks?

Major arrests, possible intelligence gains, and security that might have been increased, are all among questions in the wake of the deadly attacks in Brussels

It's too soon to tell whether the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday were a direct consequence of the raid last week that netted one of the ISIS militants behind November's deadly campaign in Paris-but the timing of the bloodshed is raising questions about the attackers' motivation, and why Belgian authorities weren't able to stop it.

There are myriad theories about the timing of the explosions in a train station and the departure hall of the Brussels airport that killed more than 30 people and wounded dozens more: Was it retaliation for last Thursday's arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris bombings? Was it driven by a sense that authorities were closing in, so the bombers shifted their plans to carry out the attack before they too were found? Or just coincidence?

Vocativ asked several experts whether there was any way Belgian authorities could have acted to pre-empt the bloodshed. (The article continues in part.)

Are the attacks a result of Abdeslam's arrest?

Erik Cleven, a professor at Saint Anselm College and an expert on European terrorism, says "it is not impossible that the attack is a response to setbacks experienced by ISIS recently." In the past month, the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group has marked significant victories, including the capture of its leading chemical weapons expert, and the death of a Chechen militant who'd been at the core of propaganda films urging Chechens and other militants to join the fighting ranks of the Islamic State.

Why didn't Belgian authorities have the intelligence to anticipate an attack, given two attackers were still at large?

Cleven says: "European authorities don't have the same intelligence coordination, nor the resources, that American counterterrorism efforts have." At the same time, he says, an attack was thwarted in the Belgian suburb of Molenbeek last week, when Abdeslam was apprehended. "The reality of counterterrorism though is that it is nearly impossible to stop every attack, even if you are doing a good job.

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