As stated in GLOBSEC’s From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Kick Off Report, Belgium is a unique case for the study of the crime-terror nexus. This is a small country with a long history of jihadist presence. Following the arrest of 61 Belgian jihadists, 2015 can be considered an important year for Belgium’s security agencies. However, it should also be highlighted that the number of similar arrests increased to 65 in 2016 and was even higher in 2014 following the arrest of 72 jihadists. Moreover, convictions for terrorism increased from 116 in 2015 to 127 in 2016.
We have drawn up five codebooks in the context of the GLOBSEC project. With startling consistency, we find evidence for the existence of a crime-terror nexus in Belgium and, based on current information, four out of our five studied individuals have been associated with or arrested for petty crime or organised crime. A number of these individuals meet the profile of a “gangster jihadi”.
Prior research found evidence of a Belgian-Moroccan-French Islamic State nexus. These scholars conclude that a significant number of the terrorists on their database could be linked to Morocco, and that close cross-border coordination between terrorist networks in Belgium and France resulted in the 2015 and 2016 terrorist attacks in both countries.