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Opinion

Opinion: Brussels attacks – Fight terrorism with all we’ve got

The terrorists want us to give up. Never. When the innocent dead have been mourned, the fight against Islamism must be stepped up, says Bernd Riegert.

This was a terrible shock. The terrorists aimed right at the heart of Europe - and hit it. Innocent people were murdered. Hundreds injured. Senseless violence. The dreadful face of Islamist terror in Brussels. Belgium had just breathed a sigh of relief because one of the presumed Paris murderers was finally arrested on Friday. And now this.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Eiffel Tower in Paris will be lit up in the Belgian national colors. All Europeans should now link arms and shout in the terrorists' faces: "Je suis Bruxelles." You won't keep us down.

"God is great," shouted one of the attackers in Zaventem Airport, before detonating his explosive belt. Killing in the name of religion. After many attacks in Paris, Istanbul and elsewhere we have persuaded ourselves that Islam and terrorism can be separated, that a rational distinction can be made between the two. Perhaps we must rethink this view. Can we continue to accept Islamist terrorists being covered for, or hidden by their co-religionists, not only in Molenbeek?

Deutsche Welle Bernd Riegert

DW's Bernd Riegert

In any case, this calls for more to be done to counter terrorism. The terrorists are able to murder indiscriminately, paralyze a whole country, create chaos. The state must hit back as hard as possible. If investigators and the police need more tools, they must get them. Data protection and the personal rights of the individual must take a back seat; for example, when analyzing communications data. The security of all of us is at stake.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has said that our response must be "calm, sensible, and show solidarity." That is true, but there must, finally, be a response. Intelligence services in Europe must work together better. People have been trying to achieve this for years. So far, their efforts have not had the desired effect.

Intelligence work must be reinforced, as must prevention. It can no longer be the case that we have to stand and watch as radicalized Islamists from Syria or Iraq return to Europe and, as long as they commit no obvious crime, can only be kept under surveillance here. These people, who form the backbone of the terrorist cells in Europe, must lose their citizenship the moment they embark on their journey with no ticket back to the EU.

Naturally, in order to do this, it is necessary for the EU's external borders to be better protected. So far, there have been no permanent checks on EU citizens traveling to or from the EU. These must be introduced much faster than currently planned. The terrorist networks in Belgium were clearly able to expand and install themselves unhindered for years. This is now taking a bitter toll.

But are things any better in other EU states: in France, in Germany? The attacks by these cowardly terrorists render us speechless, furious, because we feel helpless. What can we do?

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