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Terrorism and extremism

Flowers at the Brussels Stock Exchange after the attacks of 22 March 2016
Our country has been rocked by terrorism or extremism on several occasions, such as the attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016.

A terrorist or extremist attack can take various forms:

  • An attack against a soft target (a public place, where many people are present)
  • An attack, sabotage or hacking of vital infrastructure, e.g. electricity network, transport hubs, electronic payment system

A terrorist or extremist attack can have various motives, e.g. religion, the environment, political or social convictions.

The Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA) has set the general level of threat at level 3 (out of 4)


  • Do you see a suspicious object? Call 112 and report it to the police. Do not touch it.  A suspicious object is an object that does not belong at a certain location. Think of an abandoned backpack, a bag with a strange smell coming from it or a bag from which cables are visible.
  • Do you see a suspicious person? Call 112 and report it to the police. A suspicious person is a person that does not belong at a certain location. They may be suspicious because they are behaving strangely, or are wearing clothes that do not fit in with the environment (e.g. a thick coat in summer).


In the event of an explosion:

  • Stay calm. Leave the location as soon as possible if you can safely move away from the danger. Are you unable to leave? Then keep quiet and wait for the emergency services to arrive.
  • Cover your nose and mouth to avoid breathing in dust, toxic gases or other toxic substances.
  • Talk to other people to notify them or call 112.
  • Stay near the incident (outside the danger zone) to be assisted by the emergency services.
Someone with a gun:
  • Run away if it is safe to do so.
  • Are you inside or unable to run away?
    • Then hide and lie down on the ground.
    • Stay away from doors and windows. Turn off the light. If you can, try to lock or block the door.
    • Stay quiet. Do you have a mobile phone? Put it on silent.
    • Call 112 if you can, or use the 112 app, which allows you to chat if you are unable to talk.
Are you in a safe place, away from the incident?
  • Stay where you are (preferably somewhere inside). Avoid moving around; that way you will not interfere with the work of the emergency services.
  • Do not go to the place of the incident to see what is going on.
  • Notify your family that you are safe, preferably via text or social media.


  • Certain public and/or sensitive places may be closed following a terrorist attack, for example schools, public buildings, etc. Stay informed.
  • A terrorist attack can lead to post-traumatic shock. Talk about it with your family doctor or call 106 if you need a sympathetic ear.

Impact and probability

Attack or sabotage against vital infrastructure. Impact: moderate impact. Probability: possible.Attack against a soft target. Impact: moderate impact. Probability: likely.In 2018, the National Crisis Center coordinated a large-scale risk assessment for Belgium for the period 2018-2023. Several experts assessed various risks based on their probability and their impact on people, society, the environment and the economy.

For the risk of 'attack or sabotage against vital infrastructure', the analysis is:

  • Impact: moderate impact
  • Probability: possible

For the risk of 'attack against a soft target', the analysis is:

  • Impact: moderate impact
  • Probability: likely 

Read more about this analysis and what these charts mean here. 

What do the authorities do?

Various government partners and security services work together every day in the fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalisation, for example Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA), State Security, the Federal Police, the General Intelligence and Security Service (ADIV-SGRS, Defence), and others. They exchange information, are responsible for the Radicalism Action Plan (Plan R) and are in contact with foreign intelligence services.

CUTA also provides punctual and strategic threat analyses, on a scale of 1 to 4:

  • Level 1 – low threat
  • Level 2 – moderate threat
  • Level 3 – severe threat
  • Level 4 – critical threat.

Based on these analyses, visible and less visible precautionary and protective measures are taken to protect the population, important personalities and institutions.

In the event of a terrorist attack or hostage-taking, Belgium has a national emergency plan. Such an attack or hostage-taking usually has a national impact and requires an immediate response. For security reasons, the content of the emergency plan has not been made public.