Terrorists put benign Belgium under mental siege
Enveloped by bodyguards, the Justice Minister of Belgium hurried out of his office building and into the darkened square dominated by the Palais de Justice on the other side. A telephoned bomb threat had emptied the ministry.
''We cannot take any risks,'' said the Justice Minister, Jean Gol, who is also Deputy Prime Minister. He spoke in an interview in the middle of the square here, which had suddenly filled with police vans, black-uniformed bomb squad experts and men in plainclothes who snapped on red arm-bands.
In December, Mr. Gol announced that four presumed leaders of a terrorist band called the Fighting Communist Cells had been arrested in a fast-food restaurant in Namur. ''But,'' he cautioned, ''we have seen in other European countries that terrorist movements have been born again like the phoenix.''
The Belgians, who a century ago abolished the death penalty and live in one of the few Western industrial democracies that do not permit telephone tapping, find themselves these days in something like a mental state of siege. They have recently been shaken by two home-grown terrorist bands - one of the left, the other savage but ideologically mute.
27 Bombings in 14 Months
The capture in December of Pierre Carette, a 33-year-old printer, and three of his comrades appears to have severely cut into the strength of the Fighting Communist Cells, which over 14 months claimed responsibility for 27 bombing attacks on multinational companies, banks and NATO installations, including a strategic oil pipeline.
From the Saint Gilles prison here, the four issued a communique acknowledging their membership in the Fighting Communist Cells and calling for ''a resumption of combat'' so that ''the spark sets the plain ablaze, so that the class struggle burns down history.'' But so far whatever militants remain at large - Mr. Gol said he thinks they are no more than a score - have done nothing more incendiary than call in bomb threats that have turned out to be false.
According to several people who knew him before he went underground in 1984, Mr. Carette was a Leninist visionary who repeatedly broke with other tiny leftist factions, regarding them as foolish or traitorous. But Mr. Carette, described by those who knew him as a cold, lonely and haughty man, seemed to have exercised a certain charisma over a small band of younger disciples.
''He considered himself a soldier of the revolution,'' said Michel Graindorge, a Brussels lawyer who knew him in the late 1970's through a defense committee for imprisoned members of the West German Red Army Faction. ''Pierre never talked about love, happiness, art. For him it was the revolution.'' Worked With French Terrorists
Around 1982 in Brussels, Mr. Carette is said to have encountered two exiled founders of the French terrorist group Direct Action, Jean-Marc Rouillan and Nathalie Menigon, and a French revolutionary theorist named Federic Oriach. Briefly joining forces, the two bands staged holdups to raise money and shared, with remnants of the Red Army Faction, 1.760 pounds of dynamite stolen in 1984, according to Belgian and West German investigators.
In his printing plant on the Rue d'Albanie, Mr. Carette also turned out communiques for a shadowy group called the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, which in 1982 assassinated a second secretary at the Israeli Embassy in Paris. This connection has led Belgian officials to explore possible links to Abu Nidal, the leader of an anti-Arafat Palestinian group that has carried out terrorist attacks in Belgium and boasted of ties to the Fighting Communist Cells.
While intrigued by Mr. Carette's international connections, Mr. Gol said the group appeared to be primarily a Belgian phenomenon. The terrorist leader, whose father is a member of the Belgian criminal investigation police and whose brother is a paratroop officer, appears to have broken ideologically with the Red Army Faction and Direct Action and did not sign a ''Euroterrorist'' communique issued by the two groups in January 1985.
''He had a megalomanic desire to bea revolutionary star,'' said Andre Dartevelle, a Belgian television journalist who has closely studied Mr. Carette and his terrorist group.
'Politics Replaced by War'
''In his vision, politics is always replaced by war. There are those who are correct - the revolutionary vanguard - and the rest, the bourgeoisie, the traitors, the unions. It is a perversion of Leninism, a revolutionary messianism - bizarre, magic, if you will.''
For many peaceable people on Belgium's far left, the isolation of the Fighting Communist Cells was its most striking quality. Initially the group's communiques prompted some leftists to criticize it as a right-wing band masquerading as Leninist. Solidaire, a Belgian Maoist publication, once ran a headline referring to the group by its initials in French, CCC: ''CCC: Pronounce it CIA.''
''The CCC are politically isolated, swimming against the current, ''commented Roger Noel, a 30-year-old printer and anarchist who spent four and a half months in a Polish jail for smuggling a radio transmitter to Solidarity activists. ''In Belgium, the social movements of the left are now in a moment of defeat. This sort of action was seen as a kind of revenge.''
Some contend that it is not accidental that the terrorist group has its roots in French-speaking Wallonia, whose smoke-stack industries have been most sharply hit by what is known simply as ''the crisis.'' Mr. Carette comes from the stricken steel city of Charleroi, and a number of his sympathizers were young drop-outs on the fringes of Brussels' theater and university life.
A Relatively Low Toll
Yet, while the group exalted violence, its actions took only two lives-two firemen called in to defuse a booby-trapped car parked in front of the Belgian employers' association on May 1.
By contrast, a gang known as ''the killers of Brabant'' has killed 27 people, many of them women and children, in attacks on supermarkets and other public places since 1982. The professionally executed shotgun attacks and the inconsequential booty taken by the Brabant killers have persuaded some investigators that they may be a far-right commando group, perhaps composed of former policemen or military men.
Bron: The New York Times | 6 februari 1986