Two Employees at Belgian Nuclear Plant Fled to Syria to Join Islamic State in 2012 — NYT

In 2012, two employees at the Doel nuclear power plant in Belgium quit their jobs and left the country for Syria where they joined the Islamic State group, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The men fought in a brigade made up of other Belgians that included one of the leaders of the November terrorist attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, according to the report.

The Times noted that one of the former nuclear plant workers was reported to have been killed in Syria, while the other was later convicted in 2014 for terror-related offenses in Belgium.

In this March 15, 2011 file photo, a nuclear power station cooling tower is seen next to a historical windmill in Doel, Belgium. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
In this March 15, 2011 file photo, a nuclear power station cooling tower is seen next to a historical windmill in Doel, Belgium. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

The report — along with news Saturday of the murder of a Belgian security guard at a nuclear research facility — raised fears that the jihadist group aims to expand its weapons capability to either obtain nuclear material or sabotage operations at a nuclear plant.

Another incident raising concerns was the discovery of a video last year in the apartment of a suspected jihadist with links to the Paris attacks. The video included surveillance footage of a top scientist at a separate Belgian nuclear plant.

Chillingly, three men believed to be connected to the video were involved in either the Paris or Brussels attacks, the Times reported.

The suicide bombers who struck Brussels last Tuesday, brothers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, are thought to have driven to the Belgian nuclear scientist’s home and removed the camera that was planted in the bushes.

The video was found in a house linked to Mohammed Bakkali, who is accused of helping plan the Paris attacks.

The Times conveyed another unusual incident that took place at Doel:

At the same plant where these jihadists once worked, an individual who has yet to be identified walked into the reactor No. 4 in 2014, turned a valve and drained 65,000 liters of oil used to lubricate the turbines. The ensuing friction nearly overheated the machinery, forcing it to be shut down. The damage was so severe that the reactor was out of commission for five months.

Investigators do not know if the case was terrorism-related or a case of a workplace grudge, the Times reported.

Belgian prosecutors on Saturday said they believe the murder of a security guard at a nuclear research facility Thursday was criminal in nature and not related to terrorism.

Agence France-Presse, citing the Belga news agency, reported that the Charleroi prosecutor’s office “formally denied” any connection between the murder of Didier Prospero and possible terrorism. Prospero was shot dead along with his dog.

Belga quoted the prosecutor’s office saying that his security badge did not go missing, contrary to previous reports.

The Daily Mail reported that all nonessential staff at two nuclear plants in Belgium on Friday were temporarily sent home, just days after the suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and subway station.

“Only those who are really needed are staying, the other people were sent home,” an unnamed spokeswoman said.

“Some 1,000 people work on sites like these. Their backgrounds are all checked thoroughly, but better safe than sorry,” she added.