NEW Year’s riots and looting made Belgium’s notorious “jihadi capital” Molenbeek a no-go zone for cops and firefighters, a fire chief has said.
According to the Brussels fire brigade, 66 of the 83 call-outs were for fires started on public roads such as torched cars.
Brussels cops were also forced to close down the metro station Etangs Noirs after disturbances broke out on the streets outside the entrance.
In total 37 people were arrested by the police.
But according to union representative and firefighter Eric Labourdette, his colleagues were unable to extinguish some fires in Molenbeek as they could not get any cops to guide them in to the dangerous borough and to then protect them against attackers.
Labourdette said: “The Brussels firefighters and those from other cities are sick and tired of being attacked while doing their duty.”
He complained that the police are understaffed and not able to keep the streets safe, with de-facto control of some boroughs in the hands of rioters.
Labourdette said: “Like each year, this New Year’s Eve was quite heavy for the firefighters of our capital. After the clock struck 12, the fire brigade was called for burning rubbish bins in the Etangs Noirs borough.
“At the spot in Rue Piers we saw a number of youths. There was quite a lot of smoke by fireworks on the streets, even though that is forbidden.
“Multiple rubbish bins and also a Christmas tree were on fire. There was a huge number of youths on the street, but the police were nowhere to be seen.”
According to Labourdette, the firefighters had to call off their mission “because their safety could not be guaranteed”.
On their way back, their fire truck was reportedly attacked with projectiles and stones thrown by the youths.
Labourdette said: “At all sorts of events they [firefighters] get stones thrown towards their heads.
“A football match which ends thousands of kilometres away: the fire brigade is attacked with stones. A rapper who calls for a gathering in the centre of Brussels: the fire brigade is attacked with stones. New Year’s Eve: the fire brigade is attacked with stones.
“It has almost become a game and unfortunately a daily occurrence for the fire brigade in the capital of Europe.”
Computer shop owner Hassan Zenague said looters managed to take computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.
“I arrived at 1.30am and everything was completely smashed just 30 minutes later,” he said. “The police were present but did not intervene.”
Labourdette blamed the local politicians for turning Molenbeek into a no-go area, adding: “Let’s get rid of the political correctness which certain authorities impose on us. It is about time to realise that all sorts of control have become impossible in some boroughs.”
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Sint-Jans-Molenbeek or Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, often simply called Molenbeek, is a western district of Brussels.
Molenbeek is notorious for harbouring Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was jailed last year after being found guilty of attempted murder and possession of weapons following a shootout with police..
He is also accused of involvement in the deadly Paris terrorist attacks on the Bataclan theatre on November 13, 2015, and has been linked to an Isis attack in Brussels on March 22, 2016, when a total of 32 people were killed in coordinated suicide attacks. No formal charges have been made against him.
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