Heightened security in Brussels remains
Terror alert drops a level but heightened security in Brussels remains in place
A terror threat to the Belgian capital has decreased slightly but heightened security measures are being maintained indefinitely.
The heightened state of alert has been in effect in Belgium since 21 December. This was the day that authorities detained 14 people suspected of plotting to help an accused al-Qaeda militant break out of jail. Based on partial results of an inquiry into the suspected plot and intelligence information gathered nationally and abroad, the terror alert to Brussels has dropped from Level 4 -- the highest -- to Level 3.
This was announced by manager at the government Crisis Centre, Alain Lefevre, following an evaluation of the situation by the government.
"However, that does not mean we can let our guard down. A certain number of security measures -- both visible and less visible -- remain in place," Lefevre is quoted as saying.
Nizar Trabelsi in prison in Belgium
The al-Qaeda-linked inmate, Nizar Trabelsi, is a Tunisian former professional soccer player who is serving 10 years for plotting to drive a car bomb into the cafeteria of a Belgian air force base housing about 100 U.S. military personnel.
The police are continuing investigations into material found in the raids on the 14 suspects' homes. All 14 have been released for lack of evidence, and all maintain their innocence. Trabelsi himself has denied that his supporters were plotting his jailbreak or any terror attack.
Trabelsi met Osama bin Laden
Trabelsi, 37, was arrested in Brussels in 2001, two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and convicted two years later.
During his trial, he admitted plotting to kill U.S. soldiers based in north-eastern Belgium, saying he had met al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and asked to become a suicide bomber.
Trabelsi came to Europe to play professional soccer in 1989. According to Director of the Crisis Centre, Jaak Raes, while a terror attack is not thought to be imminent, it remains a possibility and precautionary measures remain in place- such as sealed dust bins in public spaces.
Mr. Raes said that the arrest on Dec. 31 of three people in the neighbouring Netherlands on suspicion of being close to carrying out an unspecified violent act was one factor that contributed to the modification of the terror alert in Brussels.
The anti-terror measures disrupted festivities in Brussels. The traditional New Year's Eve fireworks display was called off for security reasons.