WITH its stout brick houses and wrought-iron balconies, as well as occasional tower blocks, Molenbeek would not be out of place in a multicultural corner of any western European capital. Residents can shop at the Marrakech baker, Islamic butcher, Halal Turkish Pizzas or the King of Saree. A rundown Islamic centre offers classes in rapid memorisation of the Koran around the corner from a main commercial street strung with municipal Christmas lights.
In recent days, after the carnage in Paris, Molenbeek has changed in the public imagination from an edgy ethnic corner of Brussels into a nest of European jihadism. One of the Paris suicide-bombers, Brahim Abdeslam, was a French citizen who lived in the area. His younger brother, Salah, is believed to have fled back to Belgium after the carnage. Raids by armed Belgian police in Molenbeek on November 16th and 19th were intended to track him down.
The presumed mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, also grew up in Molenbeek. He had been assumed to be in Syria—Islamic State’s glossy magazine even “interviewed” him about his exploits in evading capture. But on November 18th French police fought their way into a flat in Paris where he was thought to be hiding. A woman blew herself up; Mr Abaaoud died, too. The public prosecutor said the raid had foiled another imminent plot to attack the Paris region.
Read More: Jihad at the heart of Europe | The Economist