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Man Arrested in Brussels after Bomb Alert | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Police and military personnel patrol on the scene of a bomb alert in the City 2 shopping mall in the Rue Neuve in the center of Brussels on June 21, 2016. AFP

A man with a fake suicide belt was taken into custody after a bomb scare at City 2 shopping center triggered a major anti-terror operation in central Brussels on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said.

Tuesday’s incident began at about 6:30 am after a report of a man acting suspiciously near the shopping center set off a bomb alert.

Belgium’s Standaard newspaper, quoting Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere, said that a man had called police threatening to blow himself up outside the mall.

“He is being questioned at the moment,” said Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutors’ office. “There were no explosives.”

At the scene, police in hoods and military wearing helmets were seen patrolling around at least one major entry to the City 2 shopping center. Police cars were on the scene and the demining squad was also called in. Some entries to the subway station were also blocked, and underground traffic disrupted.

Belgium remains on a high state of alert after ISIS-claimed bomb attacks in March left 32 dead at the airport and on the metro.

The incident comes only days after Belgian authorities charged three men with “attempted terrorist murder” after raiding dozens of homes linked to a reported threat to fans watching during a Euro 2016 football game.

Unconfirmed media reports suggested that a shopping complex, an American fast food chain and police were among the possible targets.

Amid the alert, Prime Minister Charles Michel changed his morning program and a meeting of the Belgian crisis center was called.

“The situation is now under control. The security services remain extremely vigilant,” Michel said later in a statement.

Crisis center spokesman Peter Mertens said the nation’s security alert was not changed.

“That level, and the measures accompanying it, is already high,” Mertens said. “The situation of this morning has no impact on the existing measures.”