Belgium siege: Armed men enter Ghent apartment

Siege in Ghent Image copyright Ruben Denys
Image caption Belgium's national authorities took charge of the police operation

Four armed men have entered a flat in the Belgian city of Ghent and police have sealed off the surrounding area.

Unconfirmed reports suggested that the four had taken a man hostage and police urged residents to remain indoors for their own safety.

The men burst into the flat in the Dampoort area of the city, in northern Belgium.

Reporters at the scene said later that up to three people had given themselves up without violence.

But it was not yet clear whether they were suspects and whether the siege was continuing.

Local prosecutors said there was no indication of any link to terrorism or jihadist group Islamic State.

"This isn't the same sort of incident as the events in Sydney," spokeswoman Annemie Serlippens said.

The head of Ghent police Filip Rasschaert told De Standaard website that they were carrying out the operation carefully because of the potential involvement of a hostage.

Federal authorities were now in control of the siege, he said.

Image copyright Ruben Denys
Image caption Residents described seeing police snipers taking positions on neighbouring buildings

"They have all they need to bring a successful end to a hostage-taking," he said.

Ghent resident Ruben Denys, who was within the police cordon, told the BBC: "There are police officers around the building, at the back and on people's terraces. A truck has arrived with ladders. They have guns."

Belgian TV said that another siege had taken place in Ghent in October, involving a man implicated in an earlier hostage-taking. That incident involved an unpaid debt, it reported.

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