Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Belgium: State of Alert over Potential Terror Attack | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Media ID: 55352734

Belgian soldiers patrol Brussels’ Grand Place, November 22, 2015, after security was tightened in Belgium following the fatal attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Brussels-Belgian police recently received information on terrorists exiting Syrian territory and heading to Belgium. The terrorists are rumored to intend on staging a series of attacks likely targeting malls, shopping centers, police stations and international fine restaurants.

Nonetheless local media stated that information remains unclear and without backup. Neither national nor international sources were able to confirm the word.

With sources failing to confirm a posed threat, national security measures were kept to stage three without raising the final alarm. A stage three security level is authorized to deal with potential terror threats whether imminent or a mere possibility.

As media outlets spread the word on impending threat, a state of fear and panic struck the people of Brussels. Companies, institutions and downtown retail shops all currently experiencing a state of undeniable anxiety.

Thousands of employees at a major company in Brussels received an email with management directions on restricting presence outside the premise of work during lunch hours. The warnings were made as new details were made available for the Brussels Police Department pointing out the possibility of a terror attack in the city during the holy month of Ramadan.

Local media mentioned that incoming information is not well-verified as to raise a maximum state of alert. Brussels police warned the army to take proactive measures to protect troops who had spread across the streets after last March’s attacks.

There should be more alertness while patrolling city streets, in addition to boosting security at public arenas which witness gatherings for the UEFA Euro 2016 championship, tourist attractions, restaurants, cafes, schools and hospitals.

Local media also reported that maintaining the level of alertness to the third degree- not pushing measures further up the ladder- reflects the lack of substantial or determined information concerning threats. In case of clearer evidence and details surfacing on a potential terror attack, the army will then deploy 1,500 soldiers in Brussels.

A week ago, after ISIS members made threats on attacking Western countries in Ramadan, Brussels officials responded with not raising the alarm in Belgium during Ramadan, for the lack of convincing evidence. Security will be kept at a stage three level- stage four is considered maximum security alertness and measures.

The state of alert was moved from second stage to third stage after security forces foiled the January terror attack, which targeted east Belgium. The state of security was sustained post the Paris and Brussels attacks, respectively in November and March. The level of security then hit a maximum stage four level for short intervals only to later settle on stage three.