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Belgian DPM urges anti-terror efforts

27 Nov Belgian DPM urges anti-terror efforts

Governments can stop their citizens joining extremist groups in the Middle East by identifying what drives them to take up arms for terrorists groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders said yesterday.

The reasons they leave for faraway wars vary, he noted. Some are struggling financially at home; others are driven away by a sense of alienation.

But finding the key reasons is crucial for tackling the problem, he said in a lecture in Singapore.

It will take time as “each country will need to find answers in its own context”, he said. “There will not be a one-size-fits-all answer.”

Mr Reynders, who is also Foreign Minister, made these points during his lecture titled “Singapore and Belgium as partners in the international coalition fighting ISIS: What are the conditions for success?”.

It was jointly organised by the European Union Centre, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and the Belgian Embassy.

Both Belgium and Singapore have welcomed the United Nations Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolution requiring all nations to adopt, among other things, laws criminalising nationals who join extremist groups.

But countries need to do more, said Mr Reynders.

By identifying why their citizens join terror groups, countries can adjust their policies to battle the terrorist threat more effectively, he said.

“It will take time, maybe more than a generation. We need to start now,” he said.

The terrorist threat has hit his country harder than other European nations, Mr Reynders said. Of Belgium’s 11 million people, more than 300 have joined the conflict in the Middle East and about 40 are thought to have died in fighting.

Singapore and Belgium have pledged military support to the US-led coalition against ISIS.

But Mr Reynders also stressed the need to look beyond military might, urging governments to find ways to cripple ISIS by cutting off sources of financial support and tackling radical ideology.

Belgium, he said, is stepping up efforts to identify those swayed by extremist ideology; for instance, by training police officers to detect early signs of radicalisation.

Mr Reynders is in Singapore as part of a Belgian economic mission to boost bilateral ties and explore opportunities for economic cooperation. The delegation leaves Singapore tomorrow.

This article originally appeared in The Straits Times on 27 Nov 2014.