Belgium’s prime minister was contrite after the Islamic State’s deadly attack on one of world’s most important cities.
“We have to do more,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said, “and we have to do better.”
Those comments were made in November 2015 after ISIS, as the Islamic State is also known, attacked multiple locations in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding scores of others. On Tuesday, Michel made similar remarks after ISIS struck Brussels, killing more than 30 people and wounding 300 others.
“What we feared has happened,” he said. “We were hit by blind attacks.”
The terrorist group’s strike at the heart of Europe—Brussels is both the Belgian capital and where the EU has its headquarters—showcases not only its ability to conceive, plan, and execute attacks outside the Middle East, but also highlights the intelligence failures that allowed ISIS to carry out attacks in two European cities four months and 200 miles apart.
There were warning signs—several of them—before the Brussels attacks: Belgium has long been known as Europe’s hub for Islamist radicals. More Belgians have joined ISIS as a proportion of the population than have people from any other Western country. Many of the Paris attackers were Belgian nationals or residents. One particular Brussels neighborhood, Molenbeek, has come under scrutiny from counterterrorism officials as well as the media as the epicenter of Belgian jihadism. Another, Schaerbeek, where police raids in the aftermath of Tuesday’s attacks were carried out, will likely face similar scrutiny soon. Europol, the EU’s police agency, warned as far back as January that ISIS “special forces” had planned to target European cities in attacks like those on Mumbai, India, in 2008.