Since "Charlie Hebdo," France, Belgium and other European countries continue to be major targets for ISIS. Earlier this week on Think, Krys Boyd talked with Sebastian Rotella, a reporter for Pro-Publica, about what top security officials in the region are doing to prevent future attacks.
His reporting is featured in the Frontline documentary “Terror in Europe,” which you can watch on the Frontline website.
The KERA Interview
Sebastian Rotella on:
… Europe’s sentencing problem:
“You have this problem in Europe of probably well-intentioned, but very lenient sentences. People getting released on parole half way through, even for violent crime, non-terrorist crime. One of the suicide bombers who attacked in Brussels in March had been convicted of shooting a policeman in a robbery in downtown Brussels with an AK-47. He served four years in prison, got out radicalized, and a couple of years later he was committing a suicide bombing. So in Europe they’re struggling with an adjustment now. It’s like OK, were doing all this work identifying these people, building cases against, convicting them. The dangerous ones need to be taken out of action long enough that by the time they’re released from prison thing have moved on, and they probably have less energy than they had before.”
… why Belgium is a weak spot:
“Since the '90s, terrorist groups have been very active in Belgium. The attacks in Paris by Algerian groups in the '90s were staged largely out of Belgium … The Belgium legal system and security forces were slow to react, partly because it’s a country that just has political problems because it’s very divided among the French and the Flemish speaking regions. And partly because it’s sort of just clung to this sort of soft approach to crime and punishment.”
… how ISIS recruits members in prison:
“You have a lot of criminals who are not terrorists but who are of Muslim origin in Europe. You have a big underclass and a big jail population that is susceptible to radicalization. What used to happen was that criminals would be radicalized slowly. Change their lifestyle. Grow a beard. Leave their old ways. Stop smoking and drinking. Go from being criminals to terrorists. What happens now is that there’s kind of this gangster Jihadism where people radicalize very quickly. They don’t really change that much, and there’s kind of an intermingling of the networks. A lot of these suspects from Belgium and France in the cases that we are talking about in Paris and Brussels still would wear flashy clothes and gamble at casinos and do other things that are considered un-Islamic. But they have been caught up in this, which makes it much harder both in prison and on the street for the authorities who are watching for radicalization to figure out who is really a terrorist.”