Six alleged members of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) have been convicted of terrorist murder in Belgium in connection with the 2016 bombings of Brussels’ subway and airport. The jury took two weeks to deliberate and read the verdict, which was based on 300 questions provided by the court. The suicide attacks, which targeted Zaventem international airport and Maelbeek metro station, resulted in 35 deaths and nearly 900 injuries, making it the deadliest peacetime attack in Belgium’s history. The court officially raised the death toll from 32 to 35, acknowledging the connections between attritional deaths and the bombings.
The convicted individuals include Salah Abdeslam, who is already serving a life sentence for his role in the 2015 Bataclan theater bombing in Paris. Another convicted individual, Mohamed Abrini, is serving a 22-year sentence for his involvement in the Bataclan attack. Oussama Atar, who was convicted in absentia, is believed to have died while fighting for IS in the Middle East. The remaining three convicted individuals are Osama Krayem, Ali El Haddad Asufi, and Bilal El Makhoukhi, who face up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced in September.
However, two individuals, Sofien Ayari and Herve Bayingana Muhirwa, were acquitted of murder but found guilty of participating in a terrorist group. Smail and Ibrahim Farisi, on the other hand, were acquitted of all charges.
During the trial, Krayem revealed that he was supposed to carry out a suicide attack at the airport but changed his mind at the last minute and fled. Abrini also avoided carrying out the suicide part of the bombing because his explosives failed to detonate.
Abdeslam, who was the only survivor of the IS cell involved in the Bataclan bombing, received the harshest possible sentence in France. The trial, which took place at the former NATO headquarters, was the largest in Belgium’s history and lasted for seven months. It involved hundreds of plaintiffs and witnesses who testified under tight security.
The indictment and charges alone filled approximately 500 pages. This trial serves as a significant step in bringing justice to the victims of the Brussels bombings and demonstrates the determination of authorities to hold those responsible accountable.
The conviction of these individuals is an important milestone in the fight against terrorism and sends a strong message to other extremist groups. The threat of terrorism persists, and it is crucial for countries to work together in combating this global issue.
Efforts must continue to dismantle and disrupt terrorist networks, address the underlying causes of extremism, and strengthen security measures to prevent future attacks. It is only through international cooperation and a united front that we can effectively combat terrorism and ensure the safety and security of our communities.