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Part of Brussels sealed off after car filled with gas canisters driven by known radical stopped

The driver had been listed as ‘being radicalised’.
Mar 2nd 2017, 6:51 PM 19,005 56

Belgium Detention A police officer stands at a cordon during the investigation of the suspect car in the centre of Brussels today Source: PA

POLICE AND SOLDIERS have sealed off part of central Brussels after finding gas canisters in a car whose driver was known to authorities as having been radicalised, officials said.

“The car was stopped because the driver jumped several red lights,” a police spokeswoman said.

The police then noticed several gas canisters in the boot and rather than take any risks, they called for help from the army bomb squad.

Local mayor Charles Picque told AFP the driver was “someone potentially dangerous” who was listed as radicalised.

“When you put it all together… and that there were gas canisters in the boot, which he did not want to open, then obviously you have to be prudent,” Picque said.

Press reports said a blast was heard near where the man was detained, apparently as the bomb squad dealt with the gas canisters.

A security perimeter was set up in the Porte de Hal neighbourhood, near the main Midi rail station in an area that is famous for a medieval fortress which attracts tourists.

Nearby buildings were evacuated and public transport either halted or diverted, causing rush-hour chaos.

The Brussels prosecutors’ office, which confirmed the driver was known to police, said he was now being held for questioning to determine what his intentions were.

“It is absolutely too early to say that the driver had criminal intentions. All speculation in this sense is premature,” a statement said, adding that the identity of the driver could not be released while the investigation is underway.

Attacks carried out by home-grown, Islamic State-inspired jihadists on 22 March last year on the Brussels metro and the Belgian capital’s airport left 32 people dead.

The same jihadist cell also played a key role in the November 2015 Paris attacks which claimed 130 lives.

Authorities significantly stepped up security after the Brussels attacks, with troops in full combat gear patrolling the streets and guarding key buildings.

© – AFP, 2017

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