Alienation grows in Brussels district that bred Paris attackers

June 1, 2016 13:05

BRUSSELS - When Moroccan-born former boxer Mohamed Idrissi orders a young man out of his gym for smoking, the respect is tangible.

The youngster stubs out his cigarette and leaves, head bowed. Inside the gym, the muted thud of leather gloves striking punchbags resumes.

Idrissi's influence goes beyond his job as a coach at the Brussels Boxing Academy, near the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital where Islamist militants, several of them of Moroccan origin, planned last year's deadly Paris attacks.

He also has an informal role mentoring youths facing what Reuters interviews with local officials, social workers and residents of Molenbeek suggest is a growing feeling of alienation and increasingly tense relations with police.

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