Soldiers shoot person at Brussels Central railway station
Belgian police say situation under control as soldiers ‘neutralise’ person after small explosion near Grand Place
A suspected terrorist has been shot and “neutralised” by soldiers at Brussels Central station after what the police described as a small explosion.
Police quickly declared the incident under control. Belgian media reported that the station was evacuated, along with the nearby Grand Place, a major tourist site.
A spokesman for the federal police said the incident had occurred between shortly between 8pm and 9pm local time (1800-1900 GMT) but was unable to say whether the suspect had been killed.
He said: “There was a small explosion and the military on site shot him. At this stage, no other person has been injured and the situation is under control.
“At the moment we are looking at the person who is believed to have had the explosive belt on him. We cannot confirm. We do not know if he is dead as it is a live operation.”
According to a commissioner of the Brussels police area, the small explosion went off when soldiers fired at the suspect.
A spokesman for Belgium’s railway operator said: “A crowd panicked in the station and ran for the tracks after an incident.”
SNCB trains to Brussels Central were diverted after the incident and soldiers were seen on patrol.
According to the Belgian newspaper La Libre, the man who was shot was wearing a rucksack and a bomb belt. He detonated a device when he attracted the attention of soldiers in the station, the paper reported.
A fire service spokesman, Pierre Meys, confirmed there had been an explosion in the station and that firefighters were at the scene but said it appeared there was no danger to others. He could not say what had caused the blast.
A government spokesman said: “Prime minister Charles Michel and interior minister Jan Jambon are following the situation very closely from the crisis center.”
The city’s police force said on Twitter that the incident involved one person and, according to the Reuters news agency, a police spokesman added that there were no casualties, other than the person targeted by the military. According to the Associated Press, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said there appeared to be no civilian injuries or deaths.
Reuters quoted the police spokesman as saying: “There was an accident at Central station. There was an explosion around a person. That person was neutralised by the soldiers that were on the scene. At the moment, the police are in numbers at the station and everything is under control.”
The station and the adjacent historic downtown area, packed with tourists and locals on a hot summer evening, was partly evacuated as police set up a security cordon.
The Grand Place, one of the city’s top tourist attractions, was also evacuated as a precaution. The beautiful gothic square, which is a five-minute walk from Central station would have been thronged with people on a warm midsummer night. In the nearby Galeries St-Hubert, a 19th-century arcade of shops and cafes, people stayed indoors.
State broadcaster RTBF showed footage of two military-style vehicles parking outside Central station.
Belgium’s national rail operator, the SNCB, said services had been halted at Brussels Central, Brussels Nord and Brussels Midi by order of the police, while officers referred commuters to the SNCB for more details.
The city has been on high alert for more than 18 months since Brussels-based Islamic State militants carried out attacks in Paris that killed 130 people there in November 2015 then bombed Brussels airport and the city’s metro in March last year.
In March last year, attacks on Brussels airport and on the city’s metro system, killed 32 people.
Two suicide bombers killed 16 people at Brussels airport, and moments later a suicide bomb at Brussels’ Maelbeek subway station killed another 16, on 22 March.
Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by Isis and several of those involved in the bloodshed were directly linked to the November attacks in Paris, also claimed by Isis, which left 130 dead and were planned in Brussels.