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Thu May 26 14:36:46 SAST 2016

Brussels bans planned anti-Islam rally in troubled Molenbeek

AFP | 30 March, 2016 20:22
Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the decision to ban the demo came after talks with police and other district mayors. File photo
Image by: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS

The mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek on Tuesday said far-right extremists have been banned from holding a planned anti-Islam rally in the troubled neighbourhood, as the city remains on edge after last week's suicide attacks.

Members of the French far-right youth group Generation Identitaire had posted a message on their website asking supporters to descend on Molenbeek Saturday and march under the banner "Let's expel the Islamists!"

The impoverished immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek has long been seen as a hotbed of Islamist extremism and the prime suspect in November's Paris terror attacks was arrested there earlier this month, just metres from his family home.

Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the decision to ban the demo came after talks with police and other district mayors.

"If we had let it happen, there could have been clashes," Schepmans told AFP, amid fears the protest could trigger angry counter-demonstrations in the largely Muslim Molenbeek.

The regional Brussels government will an issue an order prohibiting "any demonstration or counter-demonstration in connection with this call to protest," added Mustafa Er, an aide to Schepmans. The ban will cover all of the capital's 19 districts.

In a sign of the simmering tensions in the still grieving capital, riot police fired water cannon last weekend to disperse far-right football hooligans who shouted anti-immigrant slogans and disrupted mourners at a shrine for victims of the Brussels attacks.

A total of 32 people were killed in the March 22 suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

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