Shootout Turns Brussels Suburb into Warzone

On March 15, 2016, Belgian and French forces were conducting an anti-terrorism raid of a house in the Brussels suburb of Forest when they were ambushed by suspects armed with Kalashnikov’s.

The incident took place only a few kilometers from the Molenbeek district of Brussels, which is the hotbed of jihadist activity.

One suspect who opened fired injured three police and has been barricaded inside the house.  Two other suspects attempted to escape onto the neighboring roofs. A fourth police officer was injured in a second firefight All of the injured officers sustained non-life threatening injuries and are expected to recover.

Belgian security forces are still hunting down jihadists in the region, linked to the Paris attacks which killed 130 people. Belgian authorities November have arrested 11 people in connection with the Paris attacks and have 8 still in custody.

senior Belgian counter terrorism expert told CNN that earlier these year they discovered two phone calls from Belgium to the Paris attackers. This suggests suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud may have been receiving instructions from a higher ranking member of Islamic State..

Police blocked roadways throughout Forest as witnesses reported up to 20 police cars, a heavily armed police presence, and armored vehicles descending onto the scene. Public transit operator STIB-MIVB suspended bus and tram operations under police order. Police ordered citizens to remain inside their homes.

Eric Van Der Spyt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor, noted several suspects are still being sought after including Salah Abdelslam, who is now Europe’s most wanted fugitive.

Around 6:00PM, police stormed the apartment and once inside found the remains of one of the jihadist killed by a police sniper. He was identified as 35-year old Mohammad Belkaid, an illegal migrant from Algeria who was found to have a Kalashnikov, IS flag, and jihadist manual near his body.

Two brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui were reportedly detained according to the media when one of the brothers showed up at a hospital with a broken leg. The other brother was found hiding in a house police were searching. The two brothers were known to have links to violent crime in the Brussels area.

While police believe these three individuals were the only suspects in the house, Belgium has raised its terror alert to high and encouraged public vigilance to suspicious activity or behavior.

This is not the first high profile shootout between European police and Jihadist suspects in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, a reflection of the growing influx of small arms including assault rifles and surface to air missiles into Europe from the former Yugoslavia and Libya. While this time training, teamwork, and determination of the police allowed them to achieve their mission objective and maintain public safety. The incident shows the growing danger of European based jihadis.