The terrorist attack in Liège, Belgium, on 29 May 2018 claimed three lives. The assailant was subsequently killed by the police. This was the first attack in Belgium since August 2017 and the first with fatalities since the Brussels bombings in March 2016.
The perpetrator, Benjamin Herman, was a Belgian convert, radicalized in prison. This attack highlighted two of the key challenges facing the Belgian authorities. The first is concern about so-called ‘homegrown terrorist fighters’ (HTFs), as opposed to the ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ (FTFs) who have preoccupied European security systems in recent years. The second is the issue of radicalization in prisons. Belgium has between 230 and 450 radicalized inmates, according to various estimates.
Thomas Renard (Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations), explains that the Liège attack reminds us that the terrorist threat will not disappear overnight. That said, with the fall of the self-styled caliphate of Islamic State, it does not fundamentally contradict Belgium’s decision to lower the threat level from 3 to 2 out of 4 levels in January 2018. Indeed, overall, the level of jihadi activity in Belgium – propaganda, recruitment, plots – seems to be waning, even if it is still higher than it was in the 2000s.