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Belgium PM: We are trying our best to fight terrorism, ‘but it’s not enough’

January 20th, 2015
03:03 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The Belgian Prime Minister told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that more needs to be done in the fight against extremism as Europe remains on high alert.

“I think that today we are trying to do our best. But it's not enough. It's a new threat against the democracy, against currency, against our values. And we have to fight. And I am determined to fight. I'm convinced that we have to do more against radical terrorists,” Charles Michel said.

Belgium deployed hundreds of security forces in Brussels and Antwerp on Saturday after an anti-terror raid on Thursday that police say foiled an imminent attack and left two suspects dead. Authorities are still on the hunt for the terror cell’s ringleader.

The Prime Minister told Amanpour “the attacks were imminent” and “planned for the next hours.”

“We have the situation under control. Last week, we understood that a few terrorists were planning an attack, a very tragic attack against police stations, against justice courts, against citizens on the ground in Belgium, and that's why we started with our special forces in a portion on the ground in order to catch the terrorists.”

“The Belgian security services have very good worked together. We have the first success. It's important. But we are very vigilant for the future.”

More than 300 Belgians have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, making the country of 11 million the largest producer of jihadis per capita in Europe, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

“First of all, Belgium is one of the first countries who have detected this phenomenon. That's why I think that we have in Belgium a good knowledge of the situation. It's the first point. And second point, Belgium is in the heart of Europe. Belgium is a small country with airports, with stations. It's very easy from Belgium to travel at once Europe.”

He called the issue of returning foreign fighters in Belgium and other countries “a new phenomenon.”

“We are trying to control more and I think we have also to sanction more the returnees.”

The Belgian Prime Minister reiterated how important he believes information sharing across the intelligence community is when it comes to the fight against terrorism.

“I want, with the other European leaders, [to] make progress in the exchange of information and most specifically the problematic of the information about capacities.”

“It's a very important thing to give more capacities for our intelligence services to have more information and to prevent more the radicalism and terrorism with this information.”

Charles Michel added “that it will be crucial in the future to agree the cooperation between the services, between the intelligence services.”

Prisons have often become recruiting hubs for jihadists, and it was where the radicalization process ultimately began for Paris attackers Amedy Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers.

Amanpour asked Charles Michel if he believes radicalization in prisons is also a factor in Belgium and whether it needs to be addressed.

“Yes, it's true. We have a problem in our jails, in our prisons. We see that a few people are trying to convince the others with radical ideas and that's why my government took decisions, and in the future we will isolate these guys if they are trying to convince the others with radical ideas.”


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