Known as a radical Islamist: Brussels attacker applied for asylum in four countries

Known as a radical Islamist
Brussels attacker applied for asylum in four countries

He was known to the authorities as a radical Islamist, was in prison, and his asylum applications were rejected in four European countries. And yet the 45-year-old Tunisian who shot two Swedes in Brussels on Monday was not deported. Belgian and Swedish politicians are calling for stricter migration policies.

The Islamist-motivated attacker who shot two Swedish football fans in Brussels had applied for asylum in four different European countries in recent years, including several EU countries. Before applying for asylum in Belgium four years ago, the Tunisian had already applied for asylum in Norway in 2011, in Sweden in 2012 and in Italy in 2014, the Belgian government said.

All applications were rejected because the Tunisian was not classified as in need of protection, said Migration State Secretary Nicole de Moor. She once again called for a more consistent deportation policy within the EU. Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and his Swedish colleague Ulf Kristersson had previously called for a stricter European migration policy. “We have to protect our European borders,” Kristersson said on Wednesday. Faster deportations are “something we have to address,” emphasized Belgium’s Prime Minister De Croo. The European authorities also need to be able to exchange information better, explained Kristersson.

According to the Italian government, the attacker came to Europe in 2011 on a refugee boat from Tunisia via the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. After a temporary stay in Sweden in 2016, he was classified as a radical Islamist by the Italian authorities and was also observed, the Ansa news agency reported, citing the government. He later went to Belgium.

The attacker was in prison in Sweden

The Swedish Migration Agency had previously announced that the attacker was in prison in Sweden. “He served a prison sentence between 2012 and 2014,” said an authority spokesman. It was not stated why the Tunisian was sentenced to prison.

The 45-year-old Tunisian shot two Swedish fans and injured two other people on Monday evening before a European Championship qualifier between Belgium and Sweden in Brussels. The perpetrator was initially able to escape, but on Tuesday he was tracked down and shot by the Belgian police.

The jihadist militia Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. This year, activists in Sweden and later also in Denmark burned copies of the Koran several times, triggering angry reactions among Muslims. At least one of the victims is said to have been wearing a Swedish football jersey.

The European football association UEFA announced that the game between the Belgian and Swedish national teams, which was interrupted due to the attack, will not be repeated at the request of the two countries. Instead, the halftime score of 1:1 will be counted.

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