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Molotov cocktails thrown at municipal offices and Courthouse in Mechelen

The courthouse and a building that houses municipal services in the Mechelen (Antwerp Province) were pelted with Molotov cocktails on Thursday evening. The Antwerp Judicial Authorities say that the Courthouse and the ‘Huis van de Mechelaar’ where residents of the city that is midway between Brussels and Antwerp go to request and collect documents such as ID cards, driving licences and passports were only slightly damaged in Thursday evening’s attacks. However, the cells in the courthouse will not be able to be used today (Friday)

The identity of those that carried out the attack is still unknown. Just before 8pm on Thursday the Fire Service received reports of a fire at the ‘Huis van de Mechelaar’. The Antwerp Judicial Authorities’ Spokeswoman Lieselotte Claessens told VRT News that shortly afterwards the Fire Service received reports of a fire at the nearby courthouse. 

"The police and Fire Service went to the scene straight away. A preliminary investigation points to the fires having been caused by Molotov Cocktails. At the ‘Huis van de Mechelaar’ a window in the entrance hall was damaged. There is some damage, it is cracked and has been blackened”.  

Meanwhile, the at the Courthouse a petrol bomb was thrown onto the roof of the building. The resulting fire caused a cable that supplies power to the building’s ventilation system to melt. This in turn caused damage to several other power supply and data network cables. This has resulted in the closure of the holding cells at the court building. The cells are used to hold prisoners that are due to appear in court while they are waiting to be called to stand. 

The closure of the cell complex has implications for court sessions that are due to be held at the Mechelen Courthouse today (Friday 27 January). 

A third Molotov Cocktail also exploded elsewhere in the city. However, no damage was caused. Those that carried out the attacks are currently still at large. Police are investigating all three incidents and forensics officers have attended the scenes of all three petrol bombings.

Ms Claessens told VRT News that "The is currently no trace of the perpetrator nor any clue to their motives."

Mayor “shocked” by what has happened

The Acting Mayor of Mechelen Alexander Vandersmissen (liberal) told VRT News that he is shocked by Thursday evening’s events. 

Mr Vandersmissen added that this is a very serious matter and that those that carried out the attacks risk stiff sentences. The police are “working day and night” on the investigation to catch the culprits. Despite the damage to its entrance hall, the ‘Huis van de Mechelaar will be open as usual today. 

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