Brussels Youth Are Sent a Text: 'Fight the Westerners'

Extremists step up recruitment efforts after attacks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2016 4:20 AM CDT
Brussels Youth Urged to 'Fight the Westerners'
Belgian soldiers guard a memorial site at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

In the troubled Molenbeek district of Brussels, extremists have spied opportunity in the wake of last week's attacks. Over the weekend, young men in the heavily Muslim neighborhood were sent text messages, reading (in French): "My brother, why not fight the Westerners? Make the right choice in your life," the Guardian reports. The district, which was home to extremists involved in the Paris attacks as well as the Brussels bombings, is seen as fertile ground for extremists because many residents from North African backgrounds have failed to integrate with Belgian society, NPR reports. The youth unemployment rate is around 50%, and young people complain that employers refuse to hire people from Molenbeek.

An imam at a local mosque tells the Guardian that parents are alarmed by how extremists are targeting local youth through social media. "They are being exposed to something like a cancer at a metastatic stage," he says. "It is really spreading very quickly. We have to race against time to develop an immune system for the children in our community so that they reject the message" of ISIS, he says. Belgian authorities, meanwhile, say the death toll from last week's attacks has risen to 35, not including three suicide bombers, the Washington Post reports. After the release of a suspect on Monday, authorities are still seeking the "man in the hat" seen on surveillance video before the airport blasts. (More Brussels attack stories.)

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