April 13. 2024. 5:34

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Antwerp explosion potentially linked to drug-related organised crime

An explosion, which damaged twenty houses, several cars, and injured one person in Antwerp over the weekend, is suspected by authorities to be linked to drug-related organised crime, according to several Belgian media.

The explosion occurred around 3am on Sunday in the centre of Antwerp, and the main damage was shattered windows. while just one person suffered light injuries. Police and authorities suspect that the incident may be linked to the Antwerp drug industry.

The port of Antwerp has been a hub for drug trade for a while now, but according to a report on cocaine published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) last month, it gained importance in recent years.

However, the same report states that, despite the many media reports of incidents related to cocaine in Belgium, there is little cocaine-related violence in the country. Drug traffickers do not seem to be competing against each other and, due to high demand, coexist instead, the UNODC believes.

The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (NVA, ECR), said this weekend’s explosion shows once again that organised drug-related crime must be tackled urgently, Le Soir reported on Sunday.

“Given the severity of the impact of this attack on the neighbourhood, I have requested the local police to carry out an extensive neighbourhood investigation with house-to-house visits to talk to all the residents and gather as much information as possible,” he said.

In 2022, Antwerp was the scene of 75 acts of violence, Belgian news agency Belga reported on Sunday.

In February, the Federal government outlined its strategy to fight drug criminality. It notably includes increasing cooperation with other countries and port operators regarding customs and police, screening port staff, recruiting more customs agents and deploying more police forces in the port of Antwerp – the aim being to double these reinforcements by the end of 2024.

But despite the recent efforts and commitments made by the government, “the Federal Judicial Police remains understaffed,” De Wever said.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)