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Belgium's fireworks doused by security fears

Belgium's fireworks doused by security fears
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Brussels has cancelled its traditional New Year fireworks display amid an ongoing state of heightened security. Newspapers in the Belgian capital reported that the decision was taken following advice from the country’s crisis co-ordination centre.

It comes after the authorities unveiled a plot on December 21 which they said was meant to spring an al-Qaeda suspect from prison. Police arrested 14 people who were later released – but the heightened security measures have remained in place.

“Fireworks would have meant a lot of people coming,” said city spokesman Nicolas Dassonville. “We didn’t want to run the risk given the current situation. Individuals are welcome to come into the city centre, to the Grand Plas. The police will be there, but the party will continue. Brussels will not stop.”

All that remains to be done is warn the thousands of people expected in the city for the event. This will not be easy, warns organiser Emile Dereymaeker: “We will have a crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 people expecting to see the fireworks. How can you let them all know that it’s off?”

Christmas market stalls and the city’s ice rink will also close earlier than normal due to the alert. The measures will remain in place until at least January 3, when the crisis co-ordination centre holds its next meeting.