Man with fake suicide belt arrested at Brussels shopping centre after bomb alert

Image via Shutterstock
A man with a fake suicide belt was arrested after a bomb scare at a shopping centre triggered a major anti-terror operation in central Brussels today, federal prosecutors said.

Belgium remains on a high state of alert after Islamic State-claimed bomb attacks in March left 32 dead at the airport and on the metro.

Today's incident began at about 6:30 a.m. after a report of a man acting suspiciously near the City 2 shopping centre set off a bomb alert.

"The situation is for now under control. We remain vigilant," Prime Minister Charles Michel said after an emergency meeting of his security cabinet.

A bomb squad team was immediately deployed at the shopping centre, one of the main retail hubs of the Belgian capital.

"No bomb has so far been found. The suicide vest found on a suspect was fake," the Brussels prosecutors office said.

Only one exit remained open at the nearby Rogier metro station, where soldiers checked passengers bags and belongings.

Police and soldiers sealed off the immediate area, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

The incident comes only days after Belgian authorities charged three men with "attempted terrorist murder" after raiding dozens of homes linked to a reported threat to fans watching during a Euro 2016 football game.

Prosecutors charged the three men, named as Samir C, Moustapha B and Jawad B, but released nine others after questioning.

The areas searched included neighbourhoods in Brussels where November's jihadist attackers in Paris and the Brussels suicide bombings had planned their assaults.

Authorities said at the time they were responding to a need for "an immediate intervention".

Per capita, Belgium has the highest number of so-called foreign fighters in the EU who have travelled to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq, an estimated 500.

After Saturday's swoop, Michel said the country would be taking "additional and updated security measures."

However, he pledged that public events planned for the coming days would go ahead, including those linked to the Euro football championships in France.

"We want to continue living normally," the premier said.

Despite the lockdown in the area, the terror alert level in Brussels remained at level three out of four, Belga reported.

On Saturday, a source close to Belgian authorities confirmed to AFP that several leading political figures have recently had their security increased.

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel