Belgian troops shot a suspected suicide bomber in Brussels Central Station on Tuesday night after he set off a small explosion.
Shots could be heard inside the city’s busy station as troops moved in to “neutralise” the suspect who, according to reports, was wearing an explosives belt.
The station and the adjacent historic city centre were packed with tourists and the area was evacuated as police set up a security cordon at about 9pm local time.
“There was an explosion around a person. That person was neutralised by the soldiers that were on the scene,” a police spokesman said. “The police are in numbers at the station and everything is under control.”
An image shared on Twitter alleging to show the scene at Brussels Central Station on Tuesday night CREDIT: RÉMY BONNAFFÉ / TWITTER
The Terror Events monitoring site said multiple witnesses and sources claimed that the perpetrator shouted “Allahu Akhbar” (“God is Great”).
Eric Van Der Sypt, a federal prosecutor, later said the small blast was being treated as a terrorist attack. He said it was still unclear if the man was dead and his identity remained unknown last night.
The Belgian capital has been on high alert for more than 18 months since Brussels-based Islamic State militants carried out attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015 and bombed Brussels airport and the city’s metro in March last year.
Pictures shared on social media showed what appeared to be a small explosion inside the station. Passengers fled in panic.
Trains into the station, which is one of the busiest in Belgium serving the northern and southern suburbs of Brussels, were stopped as police and army deployed in large numbers.
Police officials and soldiers stand alert in a cordoned off area outside Gare Centrale in Brussels
Police officials and soldiers stand alert in a cordoned off area outside Gare Centrale in Brussels CREDIT: AFP
Within 30 minutes of the blast police issued a statement on Twitter to reassure panicking residents.
“Incident in Brussels central station with a citizen. Situation under control but please follow instructions,” it said.
Het Laatste Nieuws, the most-read daily paper in Belgium, cited informed sources saying a man was lying on the ground with wires coming out of his clothes. There were no other casualties reported. Local reports said the suspect had been “seriously injured”, while other reports later said he had been killed.
Ellen Van Cutsem, a fashion and beauty blogger who narrowly escaped injury in the incident, described being ushered from the scene. “I managed to escape with the help of police and military,” she wrote. “[There was] a lot of smoke, complete panic.”
Broadcaster RTL quoted Fires Services spokesman Pierre Meys as confirming that some kind of an explosion had happened in the station, but that he could not say what had caused the blast.
In the March 2016 attacks on Brussels airport and metro, 32 people were killed and hundreds injured.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) claimed the attacks, which were carried out by the same jihadist cell behind the November 2016 Paris attacks that killed 130 people. Belgium has remained on high alert as it tries to curtail threats both at home and from militants who may return from the Middle East.