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'Jihadist hub' lures tourists in Brussels

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 01:52

The number of tourists visiting Brussels is thought to be down by around a fifth on security fears. But there's a new tourist draw for those who do visit - Molenbeek, the home of the Islamic militants involved in attacks on Paris. Kirsty Basset reports.

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It's famous for moules frites, chocolate and the European Union. But it seems Brussels has a new tourist attraction too. Molenbeek - the home of Islamic militants involved in attacks on Paris. (SOUNDBITE) (French) BRUSSELS TOURISM AGENCY CEO, PATRICK BONTINCK, SAYING: "As a local tourist agency, we've notice guided tours are more popular than in the past" Molenbeek has a rich heritage and was once known as Little Manchester - after the British city at the centre of the industrial revolution. It's now home to 95,000 people, 40 percent of them Muslim and many of Moroccan origin. But it's the borough's notoriety since the Paris attacks that's the pull for some. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN TOURISTS IN MOLENBEEK, RAPHAELA, SAYING: "It's generally nice to get one's own impressions and not just rely on the media. And my impression is totally different. You don't need to be afraid of the people here at all, and the shop owners are totally normal." It wasn't normal a few months ago when police were arresting fugitive Salah Abdeslam just a few streets from his family home. But that's now part of the attraction. (SOUNDBITE) (French) MOLENBEEK RESIDENT, RACHID AM'HAMDI, SAYING: "I see people standing in front of the door where it all happened with Salah Abdeslam, where he got arrested. I walk along and I look at it, thinking 'It's still going on. It'll never end.'" The number of tourists visiting Brussels is thought to be down by around a fifth because of the security fears. But Molenbeek is now on the itinerary of some of those still coming. A new museum and craft centre is helping. And the borough hopes the other reasons for visiting will soon be consigned to history.

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'Jihadist hub' lures tourists in Brussels

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 01:52