“Five questioned following crime institute attack”

The public prosecutor's office has given further details about the attack on the National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology in Neder-over-Heembeek in Brussels last night. Five people were detained in the vicinity of the centre after the events, but later released.

Spokeswoman Ine Van Wymeersch confirmed that the Institute that holds the national DNA data bank had been the target of an arson attack. As a result of the late hour of the attack - 2AM - nobody was in the building and nobody was hurt.

The NICC is a scientific centre operated by the justice department that carries out judicial investigations and analyses. Belgian prosecutors stress that the target was not a random one as the centre contains sensitive information with regard to ongoing investigations.

Ine Van Wymeersch: "Several perpetrators forced their way into the site and managed to reach the wing of the building that houses forensic labs."

As the premises have still not been made safe and have not yet been examined the spokeswoman was unable to describe the extent of the damage.

Belgian prosecutors are investigating a premeditated arson attempt and damage caused by an explosion. Ine Van Wymeersch: "No vehicle was used to ram the building to gain access. A vehicle only damaged the gate. Witnesses speak of explosions, but what caused these explosions still has to be established as experts have not yet been able to examine the premises."

The five suspects arrested near the NICC are being questioned to establish their role, if any.

No indication for terrorism

Ine Van Wymeersch: "At present there is no confirmation that this is a terrorist outrage, though all possible roads of enquiry are being looked at. It goes without saying that several people could have an interest in parts of their dossier being destroyed."

The damage to the building is serious but it hasn't yet been possible to detail this damage. The bomb disposal squad is at the scene. Prosecutors have appointed a fire expert who will examine the premises as soon as they have been made safe.

VRT’s Sofie Demeyer has learned that the arson attack occurred at the labs that examine the evidence provided by hairs and the entomology labs that e.g. are used to establish the length of time a body has been in the ground by examining larvae and insects in the remains. It’s unclear whether these labs were specifically targeted or were randomly damaged.

The centre is not manned around the clock and relies on an alarm system during the night. Only when the alarm is triggered, do the police attend the scene.