Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has threatened to close radical mosques in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels that security services are increasingly viewing as a launch pad for the worst terror attack in French history.
But as masked officers swooped on the forlorn district on Monday, blocking off roads and rounding up suspects, many residents suggested that curing Molenbeek would not be so straightforward.
In agreement, another customer leant over the table to show the screen of his smartphone, which displayed a YouTube video on how to build bomb. “Who do you think is behind that?” he asked, stressing that recruitment by extremists.
Belgium has now been linked to a major terrorist attack five times in the past 18 months. And many of those links trace back to Molenbeek, a rundown former factory quarter that now houses a predominantly Muslim — and often transient — population.
“We don’t have things under control in Molenbeek,” Jan Jambon, Belgium’s home affairs minister, conceded on a television public affairs programme on Sunday. Mr Jambon has vowed to “clean up” a problem that many residents attribute, at least in part, to a long cycle of neglect.
Mr Ikazban said that under-investment in education and housing — just as the Muslim population was booming — had helped to create the economic and social weakness that created “fertile territory” for radicalisation in Molenbeek. He said that there were pockets of 50 per cent unemployment in the area, and families where parents and siblings had never worked.