Arrests, injuries as city unrest continues
9 November 2005
BRUSSELS — In the third successive night of unrest in Belgium, vandals torched cars, trucks and cellars in Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent on Tuesday, while two suspected arsonists were arrested after they were admitted to hospital for burns injuries.
Belgian police suspect agitators are committing copy-cat acts to the arson attacks witnessed during heavy rioting in France in the past two weeks.
However, a spokesman for the federal government’s crisis centre said each case was an “isolated” incident and that there were no large gathering of youths. The crisis centre also said there were no clashes with police.
Despite the assurances, Ghent police are taking the attacks very seriously, but also warned against overreacting: “This does not make a Paris of Ghent”.
Police commissioner Steven de Smet and immigrant youths had together reached the same conclusion earlier on Tuesday, but unrest was still reported in the Flemish city overnight.
The Ghent public prosecution office said two car fires were reported within minutes of each other, but only one is being treated as an arson attack.
That car was located in the Kriekerijstraat in Sint-Amandsberg. The other fire, on the Hogeweg, was accidental.
“It is an exceptional coincidence that the burning of both cars happened directly after each other, but they are not connected,” Mayor Frank Beke said.
Police have a description of the Kriekerijstraat arson suspects, newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported on Wednesday.
Police commissioner De Smet is taking the arson attack very seriously and said police will conduct a very thorough investigation. “But we must not panic either. For now, we cannot say there are indications of systemic violence.”
Meanwhile, two male youths were arrested in Antwerp for an arson attack in the Van Kerckhovestraat. The suspects are Belgian citizens of immigrant background aged 17 and 19.
“We have sufficient indications that they were involved in the arson,” Antwerp public prosecution official Dominique Reynders said.
The suspects were admitted with burns injuries to the Stuivenberg Hospital shortly after the blaze. It is suspected that they were injured by their own firebomb.
Their condition has been described as “not best”, but both have been arrested and placed under surveillance.
The 19-year-old suspect is reportedly known to police for assault, vandalism and unruliness. His underage companion is not known to police.
Also in Antwerp, a truck fire was reported at a Lidl supermarket car park on the Zeelandstraat at about 10.30pm. The flame then spread to a bus. A witness saw three people running away from the blaze.
Prosecution official Reynders said Antwerp authorities have imposed a policy of zero tolerance, stressing that every incident, however petty, will be prosecuted.
In the Belgian capital Brussels, up to 15 vehicles and two cellars are reported to have been burnt, but order was restored to the city at about 11pm. A massive police presence was visible in the city to ward off unrest.
However, the fire brigade was called out on various occasions. The first series of arson attacks was reported at about 8pm and the second was reported at about 10pm.
A fire was deliberately lit in the cellar of a social housing complex on the de Albert I Square in Anderlecht. The same occurred in a residence on the Willemans Ceuppensstraat in Vorst.
A small truck was torched in the Sergeant De Bruynstraat in Anderlecht in the vicinity of the Clemenceau train station. A car was also torched on the Lemmensplein in Anderlecht.
Two vehicles were set ablaze on the Mariemontkaai and the Edmond Machtenslaan in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. Another vehicle was torched in Andennestraat in Sint-Gillis, where rubbish was also set on fire.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news