Suspect held after crashing car into Belgian barracks

26th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

A man suspected of ramming his car into the gates of a military barracks in the Belgian city of Namur on Monday morning was arrested after a short manhunt, a prosecutor said.

Officials said the man fled on foot after guards fired warning shots at his dark coloured Ford Focus, which he then abandoned in a field nearby.

They said the man had been identified and was known to come from the area.

No casualties were reported in the attack, which immediately raised alarm in a country that is on high alert after a wave of violence by Islamic State-affiliated jihadists over the past year.

"The individual has just been arrested. It is important to reassure residents. There is nothing to suggest there are others involved," prosecutor Vincent Macq told the Belga news agency.

The prosecutors were expected to brief the press at 1400 GMT.

Belgium's Defence Minister Stephen Vandeput was expected to travel to the scene.

The Flawinne military base is home to Belgium's Second Commando Battalion of 650 soldiers, most of which are currently taking part in a NATO exercise in Spain.

The facility was likely empty at the time of the incident, except for a small group of surveillance personnel, a military official told Belga.

Details of the attack remained sketchy but a military bomb squad had arrived at the site as well as a SWAT rapid reaction team.

Media reports said the assailant was masked, though this was not confirmed by authorities to AFP.

Hours after the incident, the sound of a muffled explosion was heard from the barracks.

An AFP photographer at the scene said the perimeter had been sealed off by authorities, with a helicopter flying overhead.

During the three-hour manhunt residents said police combed the neighbourhood looking for the driver.

Nearby military facilities and a police academy were locked down.

A local TV station said that pupils at a nearby school were told to remain indoors, but the city mayor later said it was not necessary for parents to collect their children early.

The incident stirred memories of recent deadly attacks, including the killing of four people at the Jewish museum in central Brussels in 2014 by a jihadist gunman.

In January, the security forces killed two suspected jihadist fighters in Verviers, eastern Belgium, who they claimed were planning imminent attacks on police.

© 2015 AFP

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