On Friday, August 25, a Belgium man was shot dead by soldiers after having run at them brandishing a machete. The extent of the injuries was a wounded hand and face of two soldiers, while the 30-year-old perpetrator was taken to the hospital before he died. The Belgian man was of Somali origin, and reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”) twice during what is now being regarded by Belgian authorities as a terrorist attack. The attack occurred in the Belgian capital amongst popular tourist attractions and was witnessed by several onlookers at the time.
The Prime Minister of Belgium responded to the crisis through a statement on Twitter saying, “All our support is with our soldiers. Our security services remain on alert. We are following the situation closely.” Further, witnesses to the attack came forth with their account of the events. Thomas da Silva Rosa, a public affairs consultant, went on record saying, “I live right in front of the station. It was already blocked by police at the scene and there was a man lying on the ground. The police said he had been shot by soldiers.” The Belgian anti-terror Crisis Centre went on to state that the “situation is now under control” and that the attacker had been “neutralized.”
While it is of the utmost importance that terror attacks are condemned by any means necessary, it must be queried whether shooting the attacker on sight was the most pragmatic decision at the time. Irrespective of its moral implications, there may also be greater negative repercussions for national security following such a course of action. While this act of terrorism comprised a lone attacker, it is possible that he represents a rising sentiment in Belgium. Thus, questioning the offender on his motivations and political background may have yielded a more fruitful outcome in the long-term. That being said, with Belgium’s history of terror attacks, it comes as no surprise that the authorities’ response to such an attack was immediate and followed a course of action that seemed most necessary at the time.
Belgium has been host to a number of terror attacks, from the suicide bombings of 2016 to the explosion at Brussels train station earlier this year. While they did not result in any injuries or deaths, there were 32 civilian casualties in total and was later regarded as a terrorist attack by Belgian authorities. Due to such an extensive history of terror attacks, Belgium is rightly justified in being as cautious as it has been in maintaining national peace and security. While the knife attack on Friday was neutralized before its effects were compounded, it brings to light the larger, burgeoning issue of extremist sentiments and radicalized individuals, which has been an issue not only in Belgium, but around the globe.