Blog AnalysisPolice TerrorismEuropean policy

We wanted to target Europe! (Shift)

European flags lowered at the headquarters of the European Commission (credit: EC)
European flags lowered at the headquarters of the European Commission (credit: EC)

(B2) Make no mistake... The Brussels attacks of March 22 had one objective: to target Europe by targeting its main transit points where travelers and European expatriates pass, starting with the airport of Zaventem and Maelbeck metro station. Both the nationality and the profile of the victims should demonstrate this (1).

Maelbeck station, center of European power

Located halfway between Schuman station, center of European power, and Arts-Lois station, traffic hub for the various metros, a few minutes walk from the Berlaymont (the headquarters of the European Commission), on rue de La Law (the great artery of Belgian-European power), the Maelbeck station is a “small station”, undoubtedly less monitored than that of Schuman. However, it is located just a few hundred meters from the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission (3-4 minutes on foot). It borders the Lex (the Council building which houses the legal and translation services and often serves as a meeting room for the Eurogroup), the Charlemagne (the DG Trade building). And it directly serves several buildings of the European Commission (DG Agriculture, DG Competition, DG Humanitarian Aid / Civil Protection, etc.) as well as several embassies (in particular the Permanent Representations to the European Union of Belgium, Hungary or the Finland) and the European Parliament.

Time of explosion: 9:11 a.m.

The time the explosion took place — a few minutes after 9 a.m. — is not exactly a detail. At this time, all the students are already at school. Belgian civil servants and workers have already made their daily journey to reach their office (we hire in Brussels between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.). It is therefore the others, especially the 'Europeans' who are using the metro at that time. Civil servants going to work, diplomats, journalists or lobbyists coming to cover or attend a meeting, but also cleaning agents who return home at the end of the morning, come across them.

A precursor: the Bamako attack

The attack the day before on the headquarters of the EUTM Mali mission by several “terrorists” with light weapons went relatively unnoticed. This attack was foiled by the security forces present on site (Read: EUTM Mali HQ attacked in Bamako). We thus observe that, generally, attacks on the European continent are often preceded by an attack in a country close to the French-speaking zone (Lebanon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Tunisia). The attack in Beirut had shortly preceded that in Paris on November 13. A point that it is undoubtedly too early to analyze which may arise from simple chance but could also reflect a modus operandi more organized. A bit like a trigger…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Maj 26.3 – The victims come from 40 nationalities reported Didier Reynders. In the detailed list (read: Victims of 40 nationalities. A first list), we note among the deceased 14 nationalities, including an employee of the European Commission, a young communications manager for a rail lobby, and a former Belgian diplomat (who has dual French nationality). Among the injured, Polish customs officers, an agent of the Hungarian Permanent Representation, etc.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).