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December 21, 2007
Belgium Police Arrest 14 in Terrorist Plot
Police in Belgium have broken up a plot to free a terrorist from prison who was convicted of planning a suicide car bomb attack at an American Air Force base:
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the government had information suggesting "preparation of an attack." The Christmas season is a particularly vulnerable time for the west because people gather in large numbers at what are considered "soft targets." Churches, malls, and concert halls are not protected and could give any terrorist the potential for a large body count.
"Other acts of violence are not to be excluded," he said.
The prisoner, Nizar Trabelsi, a 37-year-old Tunisian who played soccer for several German teams, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison four years ago. He had admitted planning to drive a car bomb into the canteen at Kleine Brogel, a Belgian air base where about 100 American military personnel are stationed.
The base is home to Belgian F-16 warplanes equipped with nuclear weapons that are under U.S. control, according GlobalSecurity.org, a U.S.-based military affairs think tank.
Trabelsi, who testified that he intended kill U.S. soldiers, says he met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and asked to become a suicide bomber. He was arrested in Brussels on Sept. 13, 2001. Police later discovered the raw materials for a huge bomb in the back of a Brussels restaurant.
The federal prosecutor's office said the 14 were planning to free the terrorist by force. "Trabelsi would be helped by a group of people, driven by an extremist vision of Islam," the prosecutor's office said.
This foiling of a terrorist plot in Belgium shows that the extremists are capable of just about anything. Breaking into a jail to release a fellow terrorist? One would have assumed that the terrorists wouldn't bother themselves about a single imprisoned comrade.
But if they are willing to attack a "hard target" like a prison, the prime minister is correct in urging extra vigilance this Christmas season.
Pretty good advice for all of us.