Brussels lockdown: Belgian police seal part of capital in major security operation

Streets in southern Forest neighbourhood put on lockdown and armed police deployed

Jon Stone
Brussels
Thursday 22 February 2018 14:27
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Belgian police special forces prepare to enter a building after an area of the Forest commune was put on lockdown
Belgian police special forces prepare to enter a building after an area of the Forest commune was put on lockdown

Streets have been closed and armed police special forces units deployed to a southern suburb of Brussels after reports of a possible murder.

A police helicopter could be heard overhead in the Forest district of the Belgian capital, while images from the scene show armed officers taking cover and staking out a building rooftop.

A spokesperson for Belgian police denied local media reports that a gunman was hiding in the area, telling the Reuters news agency: “They are searching the buildings but we can say there has not been any terrorist attack.”

Brussels lockdown: Belgian police seal part of capital after reports of gunman

Around lunchtime on Thursday local broadcaster RTL had quoted Forest mayor Marc-Jean Ghyssels as saying that police “suspect the presence of an armed man” in the area.

People living near Place St Dennis, a lively town centre to the south of the district, have been warned to stay in their homes.

Police special forces take position

Brussels’ security services are still on an elevated level of alert after suicide bombers killed 32 people at the airport and on the metro in March 2016.

Teams of soldiers carrying assault rifles in full combat gear are a common sight on the city’s transportation system and around key buildings and possible targets.

A Belgian police special forces member secures a street after an area of the Forest commune in Brussels was put on lockdown

Forest hit international news in November 2015 after Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the deadly Paris attacks, hid there and became involved in a gun battle with police.

One of the 19 municipalities of the Brussels capital region, the area lies just to the south of Eurostar terminus Gare Midi, and extends to the edge of the city, where it borders Flanders.

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