Belgian authorities arrested two residents of Molenbeek who were involved in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris.
"With 500 — 1,000 euros you can get a military weapon in half an hour," said Bilal Benyaich, senior fellow at Brussels think-tank the Itinera Institute, who has studied the spread of radical Islam in Belgium, according to Reuters.
"It's like an airbase for jihadists," Benyaich said, adding that the heavily-immigrant populated district of Brussels serves as a safe haven for terrorists.
Molenbeek has had a number of connections to Islamist attacks in Europe. During the 2004 train bombings in Madrid one of the attackers was a Molenbeek resident of a Moroccan ancestry. A shooter at the Brussels' Jewish Museum in August 2014 was also living in the notorious Brussels district.
- Security forces personnel walk past during ongoing operations in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015© AFP 2021 / BELGA PHOTO / BENOIT DOPPAGNE
- A placard reading Molenbeek with a "peace and love sign" is seen in a shopping street in the suburb of Molenbeek, after security was tightened in Belgium following the fatal attacks in Paris on Friday, in Brussels, Belgium, November 17, 2015© REUTERS / Yves Herman
Furthermore, the perpetrators of the Charlie Hedbo attacks and the Moroccan shooter, who bought an AK-47 and close to 300 bullets, on a Brussels to Paris train in August also bought their weapons there.
And finally, two Belgian citizens, later identified as Hamza Attou and Mohamed Amri, were detained in Molenbeek in connection with the Paris attacks. When the men were arrested, their belongings tested positive for ammonium nitrate, which is used to manufacture explosives. Weapon munitions, in the form of 5.56- and 7.62-mm cartridges, were found in the apartment.