Published on : Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Brussels was hit with a major security scare after a man wearing a fake suicide belt rang the police to issue a threat. Police arrested the man near the City 2 shopping centre at dawn after reports he was acting suspiciously.
Images obtained by Le Soir show a device constructed from foil packages, mobile phones and brown tape. The man was said to be psychologically unwell.
Belgium remains on a high alert after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-claimed bomb attacks in March left 32 dead at the airport and on the metro.
“The situation is for now under control. We remain vigilant,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said after an emergency meeting of his security cabinet. He went to cancel a scheduled radio interview.
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.
The fake suicide belt contained salt and biscuits.
The man is said to be known to the police and is mentally unwell. He has previously said he had been encouraged to join Islamic State, and is reported to have told police he was abducted, and given the belt that, he said, was designed to detonate remotely.
Only one exit remained open at the nearby Rogier metro station, where soldiers checked passengers’ bags and belongings.
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 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.
After Saturday’s swoop, Mr 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.