Antwerp ‘drug war’ claims life of girl, 11, in brutal shooting

Knife crime: Gangs ‘becoming more violent’ says Green

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Firdaous El J was shot dead last at home on Tuesday night in the suburb of Merksem, the incident is being treated by authorities in Antwerp as drug-related. The girl’s family is reportedly linked to Moroccan cocaine gangs in Antwerp.

The shocking murder has seen authorities accused of losing Belgium’s ongoing “drugs war.”

Bart De Wever, Antwerp’s mayor said: “What I feared for a long time has happened: an innocent victim has fallen, a child.

“The national drug plan is frankly a disappointment.”

In the past three years, Antwerp has suffered dozens of grenade attacks, fires and small bombs often linked to gangs trying to carve up the thriving cocaine trade.

The situation in Belgium has become so bad that even Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, is living in hiding after evidence emerged drug gangs might be seeking to kidnap him, or worse.

In the Netherlands too, home to the global port of Rotterdam, murder and intimidation have become increasingly common as drug lords go to extreme lengths to protect their cut of the multibillion-euro (dollar) market. And 50 tons of cocaine were seized there last year which, combined with Antwerp, made for another record year.

Among high-profile murder victims in the Netherlands in recent years were a lawyer representing a witness in a drug gangsters’ trial and crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who was a confidant to the same witness.

Unspecified threats to the heir to the Dutch throne, Princess Amalia, forced her last year to abandon student life in Amsterdam and return home.

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Security reportedly also has been beefed up around Prime Minister Mark Rutte. In both cases, it’s suspected that drug-related crime is a factor.

And in places like Brussels, where the violence might be less spectacular, cocaine and crack are starting to have a chilling effect in areas like the Marolles, a neighborhood so folksy quaint it figured in Tintin’s cartoon adventures.

The chief police inspector for the neighborhood, Kris Verborgh, said South American cocaine “seems to be — or seems to have become — the new normal”.

Verborgh says the cost of the base product in Colombia amounts to some 500 euros ($536) a kilogram.

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A kilogram of the finished product can turn into some 70,000 euros on Belgium’s streets.

“It is a massive amount of money that you can earn relatively easily,” he said.

Because of that, seizures in the dozens of tons in Antwerp and Rotterdam may still constitute a losing battle in a multibillion global trade from the Latin American nations of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia to the major cities of Europe.

Brussels’ Marolles is hardly ground zero of that trade and many of the 11,000 people living in its warren of narrow streets are among the poorest in the city of 1.2 million.

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