In the wake of the tragic events still unfolding in Brussels this morning, speculation has already begun as to the motivation behind them.
An already prominent suggestion is that the attacks are a ‘revenge strike’ following the arrest of Paris Attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam last week.
Others are suggesting it could be evidence of a new terrorist cell, or a sign that the network of Abdeslam – the people responsible for the atrocities in the French capital – is still functioning.
— Mikey Kay (@MikeyKayNYC) March 22, 2016
Belgium’s foreign minister, Didier Reynders, said that Abdeslam claimed he was planning a fresh attack in the capital:
He was ready to restart something in Brussels. We have found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons, in the first investigations and a new network around him in Brussels.
UK counter-terrorism expert: #BrusselsAttacks likely planned in advance but brought fwd in reaction to arrest of key ISIS suspect on Friday.
— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) March 22, 2016
And BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner tweeted the views of a UK counter-terrorism expert, who thinks the attacks were already planned, but were brought forward following Abdeslam’s arrest.
It’s too early to be certain, however these attacks do underline two very serious points, writes Jason Burke in the Guardian.
The main point to make is that just because security forces arrest a single figure, no matter how high profile they might be, the threat from militants does not disappear.
Secondly, both terrorists and those trying to stop them will always try to keep one step ahead of each other.
It seems possible the attack this morning may involve two other men suspected of playing major roles in the Paris Attacks who have been on the run since November, reports the Guardian.
Mohamed Abrini – a childhood friend of Abdeslam – disappeared after allegedly playing a key part in the planning and logistics of the November attacks.
Police are also hunting for a suspect known under the alias Soufiane Kayal, who was travelling with Abdeslam and Mohamed Belkaïd – the man who was shot dead on Tuesday during a police raid in Brussels.
For counter-terrorist agencies, the aim is to get information fast enough to mount raids and sweep up suspects before they even have time to work out who among them has been picked up and who might have talked, let alone plan a new strike.
For the terrorists – the aim is to show they can still terrorise, mobilise and polarise with violence.
So while revenge may seem like a powerful motivation for the attacks, it seems more likely that the terrorists are demonstrating a continued capability – ‘they are down but not out’.