Europe

Brussels terror alert: Fake suicide belt found

Picture shows police vehicles outside the City 2 shopping centre Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The City 2 shopping centre is in central Brussels

A man arrested amid an anti-terror operation at a shopping centre in Brussels was wearing a fake suicide belt containing salt and biscuits, the city's prosecutor's office says.

The man called police earlier in the morning claiming to have been abducted and made to wear an explosive belt.

Streets around the City 2 shopping centre were closed off and a bomb disposal unit deployed.

The man later said he had invented the whole story, according to prosecutors.

Authorities say the suspect, who was born in 1990 and has been identified only as JB, has a history of psychiatric problems.

Pictures obtained by Belgian newspaper Le Soir appeared to show him wearing an improvised belt, including wires and a phone.

'Extremely vigilant'

According to prosecutors, he called police at 05:30 local time (03:30 GMT) claiming that he had been kidnapped, dropped off at the City 2 mall and that the suicide belt he was wearing could be detonated remotely.

After being arrested, the man described the car in which he was supposedly kidnapped, which was found in the Schaerbeek area.

He later admitted having simply memorised a random number plate after police questioned and then quickly released the driver of the car, prosecutors said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The alert triggered a large security operation

J.B. had previously informed police that he had been encouraged to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria - a claim, prosecutors said, was being investigated.

"For the moment, the situation is under control," Prime Minister Charles Michel said earlier after a meeting of the national crisis response centre.

He said security services remained "extremely vigilant".

Belgium's terror alert level remains at three, one step down from a maximum level of four.

City 2 tightened security measures last week in response to media reports of a heightened threat to shopping centres based on an internal police memo, Le Soir reports.

Bomb attacks on Brussels airport and the city's metro killed 32 people in March and were claimed by IS.

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