Is Brussels safe from attack?

8th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

With London bleeding from a series of devastating bomb attacks, we ask how safe is Brussels — the capital of Europe — from a terrorist attack? Aaron Gray-Block investigates.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has adamantly tried to reassure the public following the London bombings that Belgium is not at higher risk.

The shadow of terrorism in Europe is forever present

Despite the high-profile nature of Thursday's attack, the Liberal (VLD) leader says there is no reason to suspect an increased security risk in Belgium.

But security was tightened across the country all the same.

The decision was taken after Verhofstadt met on Thursday afternoon with the nation's security chiefs, gathered together as the Council for Security and Intelligence.

The intensified measures focused on train stations, the Brussels metro, airports, embassies and other public places.

A spokesman for the Crisis Centre — the Interior Ministry's emergency planning and management point — denies any link between Belgium and the attacks in London, but admits "this does not mean that such events cannot take place in Belgium".

The threat will be evaluated on a daily basis and security measures can be intensified at any time. They remained in place on Friday.

Security and government officials were otherwise extremely tightlipped about the situation.

Political target?

As the EU capital and Nato host city, Belgium is well aware it is a possible terrorist attack target, analyst Edwin Bakker says.

"Brussels is of course a potential target. They know it in Belgium, but they don't want to panic beforehand. They are aware of it because it is a centre of potential targets," he says.

Bakker says Brussels is one of several terrorist targets, such as Paris and Madrid, the scene of the train bombings in March last year.

Furthermore, Brussels would be more concerned than other European cities, such as Stockholm or Copenhagen, he says.

Based at Clingendael — the Netherlands Institute for International Relations — Bakker says the London attacks demonstrated that preventative measures did not work, which is "bad news for other authorities".

Can an attack occur here, the heart of European unification?

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