Brussels ‘bomb alert’: False alarm declared after suspect revealed to be unsuspecting science student

The man is a student studying radiation at a university in Brussels 

Alexandra Sims
Wednesday 20 July 2016 16:57 BST
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A radiation student was carrying out an experiment in the Belgian capital when suspicions were raised
A radiation student was carrying out an experiment in the Belgian capital when suspicions were raised

A major police operation in the centre of Brussels which saw officers surround and stop a man wearing a long coat was a false alarm, officials have said.

Police cordoned off an area near the Place de la Monnaie and evacuated nearby shops following reports that a man was acting suspiciously and had wires coming out of his coat.

The operation has now been called off with the suspect revealed to be a science student studying radiation at a university in Belgium.

According to reports, the man was conducting research on radioactivity in Brussels when he was approached by police.

At least one image posted to social media and shared on Belgian TV showed a man in a long coat, kneeling with his hands in the air as police point their guns at him.

Other images showed the extent of the police presence and the size of the cordoned-off area. Both a bomb squad and a Swat team were called to the scene.

“The way in which he reacted initially was not normal, which is why we had to use such measures,” a police spokesman in the Belgian capital told reporters after Wednesday's incident.

Christian De Coninck of Brussels police initially told Belgian TV that the man was acting suspiciously. Someone with a heavy winter coat in these temperatures it's very suspicious, he said.

There were wires coming out of the coat too. We didn't take any risks. The person was stopped and kept at a distance.

A police spokesman later said the bomb squad had used a robot to carry out an initial check which revealed metal plates underneath the man’s coat, further raising suspicions and he was taken in for questioning.

The incident comes as police in Brussels exercise extreme caution in the wake of attacks which killed 32 people in March this year.

And it is a day before Belgian National Day on Thursday, with events due to take place under high security across the country.

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