Monday 26 September 2016

Man who claimed he had a suicide vest on sparks major security scare in Brussels

Published 21/06/2016 | 07:30

Belgian soldiers patrol the shopping center City2 in central Brussels, Belgium June 15, 2016
Belgian soldiers patrol the shopping center City2 in central Brussels, Belgium June 15, 2016
Police cars block the area as police officers gather at the scene of a bomb alert at the City2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the city center of Brussels on June 21, 2016
Police cars block the area as police officers gather at the scene of a bomb alert at the City2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the city center of Brussels on June 21, 2016
Police cars block the area as police officers gather at the scene of a bomb alert at the City2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the city center of Brussels on June 21, 2016
Police cars block the area as police officers and rescuers gather at the scene of a bomb alert at the City2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the city center of Brussels on June 21, 2016
Police cars block the area as police officers gather at the scene of a bomb alert at the City2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the city center of Brussels on June 21, 2016.
The scene this morning outside the shopping centre in Brussels
Belgian soldiers stand guard at Brussels Central Station

A man who said he was wearing a bomb belt rigged to explode by remote control caused a major scare in a Brussels commercial district before police found the device contained only salt and biscuits, officials said.

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The Belgian capital remains on edge under a high security alert three months after three Islamic State suicide bombers blew themselves up at Brussels Airport and in a metro train, killing 32 people.

On Tuesday, Brussels police detained a man near the bustling City2 shopping centre after he announced that he was strapped with explosives that would be set off remotely. The area was sealed off while bomb experts checked the man's belt.

The man, born in 1990 and identified as J.B., had called police himself to say he had been kidnapped and forced to wear an explosives belt. It proved to be a false alarm.

"J.B. is known to police, also because of mental problems," a Brussels prosecutors spokeswoman said, adding however that the incident was still being investigated for possible connections to militant Islam.

In 2014 J.B. told police he had been ordered to go to Syria to join Islamist militants fighting in the civil war there, an incident that remains under investigation, prosecutors said.

Police also located a car that brought J.B. to the shopping mall and were questioning the owner, a police spokesman said.

Belgium's Crisis Centre, which oversees security measures, convened with Prime Minister Charles Michel and Interior Minister Jan Jambon present to discuss Tuesday's incident.

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