The sight of flack-jacketed police as well as military vehicles has become more commonplace in Brussels since a lockdown in the city following the Paris attacks in November. But the residents of rue des Quatre-Vents were taken by surprise when a swat team swooped on number 79, where Europe’s most wanted man was holed up.
“Of course it’s always a shock when it happens so close that’s of course what is always the most surprising,” said Bert who has been living on the street for the past five years with his wife and children. “We knew that in the neighbourhood there were people with sympathies for these groups. But you never expect it to be so close. Of course there was an action in November already just in the street behind us. It’s at the same time surprising.”
Molenbeek’s new found fame is clearly unwanted with many media outlets labelling it as a ‘hotbed’ for jihadism. Maria who has lived there for years and taught in its schools laments the recent attention, “It’s not just the way in which Molenbeek has been described recently as radicalised, yes, perhaps, unfortunately for us. But you can’t just take the negatives about Molenbeek, it’s also a district with lots going for it, it’s multicultural, you should come and visit, meet the people. Molenbeek is not a ghetto.
While the media presence remains visible, the tension has largely subsided as euronews correspondent Gregoire Lory reports:
“The security measures have been loosened at the site of Salah Abdeslam’s arrest. There is no police tape, a patrol car passes by from time to time. In fact, things are returning to normal on rue des Quatre-Vents. The residents of Molenbeek pass in front of the raided apartment without batting an eyelid. They are trying to turn the page.”