Monday 18 February 2019

Brussels attacks: 'Dirty bomb' terror fear as guard from nuclear plant found murdered

Didier Prospero
Didier Prospero

David Chazan

A security guard at a Belgian nuclear research facility was murdered two days after the Brussels bombings, deepening fears that Islamist terrorists are plotting attacks on nuclear sites.

Didier Prospero, a G4S employee, was shot dead at his home in Froidchapelle 70 miles south of the capital, less than 24 hours after officials stripped several workers of their security passes at two nuclear plants.

Read more: Belgians charge three men over terror attacks

Mr Prospero, 45, was found in his bathroom by his three children as they returned home from school on Thursday. He had been shot four times and his sheepdog Beauce lay dead next to him.

The killing follows a string of security scares around Belgium's nuclear infrastructure. In November it was found that an Isil cell in Brussels kept a top Belgian nuclear scientist under video surveillance.

Read more: Jihadis aren't winning battle - the figures just don't stack up

Belgium's Interior Minister Jan Jambon Photo: REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Belgium's Interior Minister Jan Jambon Photo: REUTERS/Eric Vidal

The murder heightened fears that terrorists were planning a radioactive "dirty" bomb but apparently dropped the idea when security was increased at nuclear plants this month after intelligence warnings. Belgian authorities have previously played down the risk posed by jihadists to such facilities.

The surveillance footage was only acknowledged by officials after news was leaked to a paper. It is believed to have been taken by Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui, two of last week's suicide bombers, using a camera in bushes outside the scientist's house.

When the news broke interior minister Jan Jambon rejected pleas to deploy troops as "nothing indicates a threat". Two weeks later he sent 140 soldiers to five facilities.

Belgian prosecutors said Mr Prospero did not work at a nuclear plant, but at a nuclear medical research facility about 40km from his home.

Read more: Europe holds its breath: is ISIL's worst yet to come?

But G4S bosses said he was a general patrol officer who did not have access to nuclear facilities or guard nuclear sites. A spokesman added his pass was not missing.

It is not the first time that nuclear fears have been raised. In 2013, an engineer from Doel 4, a reactor near Anvers, was sacked over fears that he had been radicalised after he refused to shake his superior's hand.

He was later identified as brother-in-law of Azzedine Kbir Bounekoub, a jihadist who left to join Isil in Syria in 2012 and had frequently called on sympathisers to launch terror attacks.

Read more: Mysterious 'man in the hat' among three arrested over Brussels attacks

A turbine at the same reactor was sabotaged in 2014 when someone deliberately turned security cameras the other way and then emptied out 65,000 litres of oil meant to lubricate the turbine.

The incident, which nearly caused the reactor to overheat, has never been clearly explained and there have not been any arrests.

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