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Man 'carrying explosives' arrested in Brussels

NewsBy Sunday World
Police at the scene of this morning's terror alert in Brussels
Police at the scene of this morning's terror alert in Brussels

A man has been arrested in Belgium after a pre-dawn security alert closed a major shopping centre in Brussels.

The security operation was launched after the alarm was raised about a suspicious package, according to staff at the capital's City 2 shopping centre.

Belgium's Standaard newspaper, quoting Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere, said a man had called police threatening to blow himself up outside the mall.

Brussels prosecutors confirmed that a man had been taken into custody, but that no explosives were found.

"He is being questioned at the moment," said Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutors' office. "There were no explosives."

Amid the alert, Prime Minister Charles Michel changed his morning programme and called a meeting of the Belgian crisis centre.

"The situation is now under control. The security services remain extremely vigilant," Mr Michel said later in a statement.

Crisis centre spokesman Peter Mertens said the nation's security alert was not changed.

"That level, and the measures accompanying it, is already high," he said. "The situation of this morning has no impact on the existing measures."

At the scene, police in hoods and military officers wearing helmets were seen patrolling around at least one major entrance to the City 2 shopping centre.

Police cars were on the scene and the de-mining squad was also called in.

Some entrances to the subway station were also blocked, and underground traffic disrupted.

City 2 spokeswoman Veronique Pirson said police said "a package had been found right next to City 2".

Belgium has been living under a high threat level which says an attack is possible and likely since the November attacks in Paris. Some of the perpetrators of those attacks were either Belgian nationals or had lived in Brussels. Some have also been linked to the March 22 attacks on the Brussels subway and airport which killed 32.

The country has been particularly on edge over the last week following a series of arrests and police raids linked to suspected terror attacks.

Over the weekend, authorities charged three men with terror-related crimes after two days of raids and the detention of 40 people in a major investigation which they said required "immediate intervention" because they feared a new attack was close.

Unconfirmed media reports suggested that a shopping complex, an American fast food chain and police were among the possible targets.