Brussels is once again at the centre if a major security operation after Belgian troops shot a suspected suicide bomber in the city’s Central station.
The incident happened at 8.30 Tuesday evening.
According to the authorities an individual was said to have been “neutralised “ after reportedly setting off a small explosion. There were no other casualties.
The suspect was shot by soldiers who were already patrolling the station, his death is yet to be officially confirmed.
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Federal prosecutor spokesperson Eric Van Der Sypt later confirmed the incident was being treated as a terror attack.
“The suspect has been shot by the military who were present at the Central Station immediately after the explosion, the investigation is still ongoing. We consider this incident as a terrorist act and luckily there were no other victims than the suspect. […]We don’t know yet his identity.”
A bomb squad performed a controlled explosion of a bomb belt the suspect had at the Station and evacuated the surrounding area while checking to see if there more hazards.
According to local media the suspect triggered a device when he attracted the attention of soldiers in the station.
Witnesses have said the blast was small but the impact was big.
“When I walked down to the platform there was a man screaming, screaming and screaming. He was talking about jihadis and things like that. At some point, he screamed “Allahu Akbar” and detonated the small suitcase he was holding next to him. Then people started to escape. They left and so on. At this point I walked back down to the platform to alert my colleagues so they could evacuate the station,” explained a railway worker.As the station and nearby Grand Place were evacuated, businesses and restaurants were ordered to close and draw down their shutters in a general lockdown.
Our reporter Frédéric Bouchard who is based in Brussels knows the city well.
“We are close to the tourist area, close to the Grand-Place. People were confined to restaurants. The Grand-Place was evacuated, the Central Station was also evacuated and then closed, the Gare du Nord which is also in Brussels was closed, as well as several metro stations. The neutralization of this man who had a backpack with a bomb caused people to take flight in panic. In their hundreds they rushed out of the station.
As the SNCB spokesman, the Belgian railways, has told us, people have been able to return to their homes. It should be noted that the Central Station sees nearly 60 000 rail travellers each day and fortunately, this attack took place after the rush hour which is rather around 5 and 6 pm.”
Prime Minister Charles Michel has since consulted with his security advisers. So far the national alert level is being maintained at its second highest level.
The Belgian capital is home to NATO and the European Union. It has been on a state of alert for more than a year after a series of devastating attacks on its transport system in March 2016.
Three coordinated suicide bombings took place at the city’s airport and at the Maalbeek Metro station, with a total of 32 people killed, and 300 people being injured.
Three terrorists linked to so called Islamic State also died and all were linked to those who carried out another devastating attack on Paris in November 2015.
The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester have added to a Europe-wide sense on anxiety as suspected jihadists are being encouraged to mount loan wolfe attacks on soft targets.