3 European Parliament buildings were evacuated around noon due to a bomb threat. Nearby Montoyer Street was closed for all traffic. The evacuation was mostly a precaution, police say, after a suspicious-looking man had been spotted in the area. The alert was lifted shortly after 1pm.
One suspect was apprehended, a man wearing a military uniform and acting suspiciously. The suspect was also carrying car keys, which fitted a nearby car. This vehicle was searched using a sniffer dog. The bomb disposal unit DOVO was also called to the scene. No explosives were discovered, but police did find a gun and a chain saw inside the vehicle.
The 32-year-old man, who hails from Slovakia, apparently told the police he wanted to meet the European President. An examining magistrate will have to decide whether he will remain in custody. The Brussels public prosecutor demands his arrest for possessing weapons without a licence and for threatening with an attack.
Suspicous car at the American embassy
The American embassy also had a bomb scare. According to Francophone sources, a man had parked a car in front of the building in order to flee the area immediately after. The area was closed due to safety reasons by the police. One hour later, the ban to enter the area was lifted again.
Court House closed due to white van
A third bomb scare involved the Palace of Justice, where activities were disrupted the whole afternoon. A suspicious-looking white van had been parked just opposite the headquarters of the federal judicial authorities. A first test involing sniffer dogs confirmed the suspicion of explosives, but the army bomb disposal squad DOVO couldn't find anything inside the van. All this took several hours. It was only around 5pm that police lifted the alert.
The whole area was closed this afternoon, inclusing the whole Palace of Justice itself, the building of the federal and Brussels judicial authorities and the Brussels criminal court.
Surge in number of bomb threat police interventions
It is not clear whether any or some of these new cases involve a deliberate bomb hoax, but the number of false bomb alerts has surged since the terror threat level was raised to 3 around mid-January. Since then, police had to intervene 35 times for (what turned out to be false) bomb reports.
Investigators will leave no stone unturned to find the culprit in the case of a bomb hoax, police warn. This person faces up to 2 years behind bars and a major bill to cover for the expenses made by police, fire services, other emergency services and DOVO. There is an extra cost involved if a third party files a complaint for suffering damage (delayed trams or trains etc.)