Sunday

26th May 2019

Brussels fears 'gun and explosives' attack

  • Trams and metros stopped running and several shopping centres closed their doors (Photo: Eric Maurice)

Belgian PM Charles Michel has said intelligence of a Paris-type attack prompted Saturday’s (21 November) security crackdown in Brussels.

He told press he has “quite precise information of the risk of an attack similar to the one in Paris … potentially by several individuals with arms and explosives, perhaps even in several places.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He urged the public “not to give in to panic, to stay calm,” adding: “We have taken the necessary measures.”

He spoke after Belgian authorities, at 5am on Saturday, raised the terrorist alert level from three to four - the maximum, indicating a “serious and imminent” threat.

They deployed military patrols, including armoured vehicles, in the city centre and urged people to avoid public places.

Main shopping streets were almost empty at noon.

Metros and some trams stopped running. Trains reduced services and parking restrictions were imposed at the Belgian national airport.

Some tourist attractions, such as the Atomium, closed.

Shopping malls, large cinemas, and libraries closed.

Marc Filipson, the owner of the Filigranes bookshop chain, also closed, said in a statement: “Ideologically speaking, I feel like crying.”

Rock star Johnny Hallyday cancelled his performance at the Heysel venue. The Ancienne Belgique concert hall put off its Sound/Check event.

The Belgian soccer league initially ignored warnings, but later cancelled matches.

Foreign minister Didier Reynders, earlier on Saturday, noted: “When there's a search on, it's easier for the police if there aren't too many people walking around on the streets.”

Rudi Vervoort, the Brussels City mayor, told people to stay “vigilant."

He said bars and restaurants haven't been advised to close. Christian masses and other religious events are also to take place.

For their part, EU institutions disseminated the Belgian alert to staff by email.

Kristalina Georgieva, an EU commissioner, tweeted: "Please stay safe and follow advice of public authorities."

The British foreign office said: "Attacks could be indiscriminate, including on public transport and transport hubs and in places frequented by foreigners."

"Brussels hosts a number of international institutions (EU and Nato) and government and foreign embassy buildings which are sensitive locations."

The US embassy in Brussels urged “everyone to shelter in place and remain at home. If you must go out, avoid large crowds."

The US military ordered its Brussels-based personnel, including civilian staff, and their families to stay home.

Paris links

The alert comes after Belgian police, on Friday, found weapons in a raid in Molenbeek - a poor district in Brussels with a high Muslim concentration, said to have been frequented by some of the attackers involved in last week’s Paris atrocity.

Police said it found guns, but not explosives.

One of the Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, is at large and believed to be in northern Europe.

Turkish authorities, on Saturday, also detained a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, 26-year old Ahmad Dahmani, said to have links to the Paris murders.

Brussels was last time on maximum alert in 2014 during a shooting at the Jewish Museum in the Place Sablon area.

Opinion

Paris attacks merit EU security review

It's easy, but wrong, to blame immigration for the Paris attacks. The security loopholes which made them possible are the fault of EU leaders and can be fixed.

News in Brief

  1. Former EU climate chief cheered by 40,000 activists in Denmark
  2. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  3. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  4. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  5. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  6. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  7. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  8. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Turnout up in Slovakia, with pro-EU liberals scoring high
  2. Belgium votes in hybrid EU-national election
  3. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  4. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  5. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  6. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  7. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  8. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us