Belgium's fractured nature makes it tough to deal with would-be terrorists

The World
Belgium hotbed for terrorists

Belgium has had a reputation for many things. Chocolate. Beer. French fries with mayonaisse.

But a hotbed for jihadist activity? 

Two of the terrorists involved in the November 13 Paris attacks were identified as French citizens from the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. That district has also been linked to two other major Islamic teror attacks: The rampage at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices and a plot against a train from Paris to Belgium.

What is it about Belgium? How did it get on this particular map?

Three days before the attacks, the Belgian interior minister said "one of the reasons this country has such a hard time with these extremists is there's a fractured nature," says Clark Boyd, who once reported from Belgium for The World. 

"Belgium is one of the most successful failed states in the world,'' says Boyd. 

There are 19 different municipalities, which mean "19 different mayors," he says. "And there are six different police forces responsible for various parts of the city. Compare that to New York, which has 8 million people and one police force ... for all five boroughs."

Secondly, a lot of the people are divided by linguistic divisions. French speakers versus Dutch speakers.

"They don’t actually share information. There's a lot of division over money, taxes, language. It's a nightmare because the two sides do not get on."

Third: This relatively small country between Germany and France is an easy corridor for terrorists to travel through.

Fourth: Belgium has some of the loosest gun laws in Europe, so Illegal weapons can be easily gotten.

The country has been reluctant to change, says Boyd, citing a French saying: Live and let live.

Now, says Boyd, with attention focused on Belgium, it will be interesting to see whether pressure to change will help the country overcome the inertia to deal with these threats.

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