Belgium – The Brussels terrorists planned to attack passengers waiting to board a flight to Tel Aviv, the third would-be bomber and suspect Mohamed Abrini told the Belgian examining magistrate, according to official records seen by France’s BFM TV station.
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a terror group would seek to attack Israeli or Jewish targets. It’s part of the agenda,” Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel (Res.), former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau and counter-terrorism advisor to the prime minister, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
“Terrorists have learned that having Israeli or Jewish targets makes the operation much more effective and well-publicized,” he explained, referring to the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed a local rabbi and his pregnant wife in their synagogue among dozens of others.
Abrini, 31, has confessed to being the “man in the hat” seen in airport surveillance footage alongside Ibrahim El-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, who blew themselves up in the Brussels airport on March 22 as part of a wave of attacks that killed 32 people. Abrini fled the scene without detonating his explosives only to be caught nearly three weeks later after a massive manhunt.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings.
Abrini told interrogators that he did not share his comrades’ ideology and, in fact, “would never hurt a fly.” He said that it was Ibrahim el-Bakraoui who chose the intended targets at the airport, which included departure halls for flights to the United States and Russia as well as to Tel Aviv.
Brussels and other European cities have beefed up security and conducted multiple raids on terror cells in the aftermath of the devastating attacks.
“I’m personally going to Brussels in May to meet with colleagues and to provide them with our experience,” Nuriel told TPS, saying that “it’s ten times harder” to attack Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport than any other commercial airport worldwide.
“The concept is different in Israel. We start checking for suspicious people at the entrance to the airport, not the at the terminal,” Nuriel explained. “Someone who thinks they can easily penetrate Israeli security with weapons or explosives probably didn’t do his homework.”
Nuriel, now a private security consultant, nevertheless believes that Europe’s underlying counter-terrorism flaw is political, not tactical.
“They need to decide that they really want to fight terrorism, not compromise with terrorism,” Nuriel told TPS. “Those who mix politics with fighting terrorism are making a huge mistake—they need to understand that terrorism is terrorism and it doesn’t matter what flag it’s under.”
“And if they decide to do that,” Nuriel added, “we will be more than happy to share with them our concept, our technology, and our experience.”