Man suspected of having left explosives next to a railway line has previous conviction for arson

A man detained on Thursday on suspicion of having left a package containing explosives next to a railway line in the Brussels municipality of Jette has a previous conviction for arson. Willemien Baert of the Brussels Judicial Authorities said at a press conference on Friday morning that the suspect had been convicted of arson and sentenced to 7 years in prison by a court in the East Flemish city of Ghent.  However, Ms Baert added that the suspect “doesn’t have a terrorist profile”. 

"The day before yesterday (Wednesday) a police patrol noticed a man acting suspiciously in the Laarbeekbos in Jette. Nothing suspicious was found at the scene. The day after (Thursday) a thorough search of the area was carried out and a bag was found containing the explosive TATP. The man that had been spotted the day before was detained in the afternoon. The man is known to both the police and the Judicial Authorities, but doesn’t have a terrorist profile”.   

The 36-year-old suspect comes from Brussels. In 2016 he was sentenced to 7 years in prison for arson by a court in Ghent.  In September 2018 the Custody Court in Antwerp decided that he should be released on conditional licence.

"After his arrest yesterday he admitted that he had explosives in his possession. He said that he makes explosives as a hobby. It is not clear why the man left the bag where he did”, Ms Baert said.

After his arrest the police carried out a search of the suspect’s home, but no more explosive were found. He was questioned by police on Thursday and will appear before an Examining Magistrate today. The Judicial Authorities are requesting that he remains in custody on suspicion of possessing explosives.