Belgium defiant two months after IS attacks
Belgian premier Charles Michel vowed Sunday that the West will ultimately defeat Islamic State group "terrorists", as the royal family hosted a ceremony marking two months since the deadly Brussels bombings.
King Philippe, speaking to an audience of 500 at the royal palace in Brussels, thanked the doctors, police and other emergency services who helped on March 22, when 32 people were killed at Zaventem airport and the Maalbeek metro station.
“If we are here in the palace, it is to express the support and gratitude of all the Belgian people,” said the monarch, who with his wife Queen Mathilde visited the injured in hospital the day after the attacks.
Prime Minister Michel vowed that Belgium and other countries fighting IS — which claimed the Brussels bombings as well as last November’s attacks in Paris — will eventually prevail.
“This is not a war between the West and Islam. And we will do everything to stop these terrorists. This is a difficult fight. A fight that will take time,” he said.
“We will know setbacks and successes. But I am confident that we will win.”
It was the first time the entire royal family — including Philippe’s parents Albert II and Paola, his sister Astrid, brother Laurent and their partners — had hosted such a ceremony.
Thirty-two white roses were placed in front of a stage to commemorate those who died.
“Where blind violence strikes our world, a new sense of fraternity is coming together,” said Kristin Verellen, whose 58-year-old husband Johan Van Steen, a senior civil servant, died at Maalbeek station.
“There is no point in responding to hatred with hatred … us against them, that would only increase the atrocity.”
Earlier this month, the Belgian government said it would extend its F-16 air strikes against IS positions in Iraq into Syria.
But top Belgian officials have been accused of ignoring EU reports of security failings ahead of the attacks.
Critics also say the authorities have not done enough to prevent home-grown extremism, with Belgium proportionately the biggest source in Europe of foreign fighters travelling to Syria to join IS.