Officials at Belgian College Warned of Paris Attacker’s Radicalization

Belgian police are trying to determine if any terrorism reporting laws were broken.

Belgian authorities have opened an investigation into education officials’ handling of suspicions that a former college student had become a terrorist.

The former student, 20-year-old French national Bilal Hadfi, blew himself up outside of a soccer stadium as part of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead.

Belgian police began investigating after reports surfaced that officials at Hadfi’s former school, Anneessens-Funck College, warned of his radicalization nearly six months before the Paris attacks, according to the New York Times. It is mandatory for schools to report terrorist suspicions to police under Belgian law.

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A director at Anneessens-Funck emailed an education official in April of this year explaining that Hadfi stopped attending classes on Feb. 24 and that people suspected he had fled to Syria. The email included pictures from Hadfi’s Facebook page where he can be seen posing with an Islamic flag and praising the terrorist attacks on the French newspaper Charlie Hedbo. But no one ever responded to the email.

Belgian Education Official Charles Huygens has admitted he saw the email but did not alert police because “by then it was too late,” referring to the fact that Hadfi had already left the country.

The college official who sent the email said he was surprised no one followed up with him but didn’t contact police because he wanted to go through his superiors.

“You would expect some reaction,” Anneessens-Funck Director Chris Pijpen said. “But then again, we’ve been asking for years for more support at our school, or the hiring of specialists, but never got any.”

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Another teacher at the school said she noticed Hadfi’s increasingly radical leanings in class. The teacher told media outlets that Hadfi said the victims of the Charlie Hedbo attack deserved it because they had insulted Islam. He also posted several messages on Facebook championing his extremist beliefs.

The teacher, who has since left the college, said the school had prepared a report on Hadfi’s radical behavior but the report was never passed on to authorities.

Belgian security officials later learned that Hadfi had traveled to Syria but he was able to evade intelligence officials upon his return.

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About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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