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De Wever seeks ‘Homeland Security’ against Syrian combatants

10:55 09/07/2014

Bart De Wever, the leader of the N-VA, said yesterday that he wanted Belgium to set up a department for homeland security to survey, among other things, young combatants who leave the country to fight in Syria.

Speaking to a group of Belgian and Dutch mayors in the Dutch city of Delft, De Wever, who is also the mayor of Antwerp, said that while local authorities could help stop people leaving for Syria or Iraq, the surveillance of radicalised young fighters was a Belgian or European responsibility.

He said the risk of former combatants coming back to Europe to commit terrorism was very real. “We have seen it in Brussels and there is no doubt that it could happen again: the intelligence services have been clear on this point,” De Wever said, referring to the killing of four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May. “It is only a question of time. As local leaders, you can obviously do nothing against it. We will thus ask for the creation of a real Homeland Security Office to identify young combatants and the risk they represent.”

De Wever’s demand is notable in that it seeks new federal competences, despite his long-declared aim of abolishing the Belgian state by gradually removing its responsibilities.

The announcement came as interior ministers from Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden meeting in Milan agreed an action plan to tackle the growing national security threat posed by jihadists returning home from Syria.

Written by Leo Cendrowicz