The Mayor of Brussels has taken the extraordinary step of cancelling the Belgian capital’s annual New Year’s fireworks display due to the terrorist threat that still hangs over the city, the Associated Press reports.
BREAKING: Brussels mayor: New Year’s Eve fireworks display canceled due to extremist attack threat.
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 30, 2015
Socialist Mayor Yvan Mayeur’s office announced the cancellation late this Wednesday evening, with Mr. Mayeur telling the RTBF broadcaster: “It is better not to take risks”.
His comments were supported by the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, who said he respected the “delicate, difficult decision” taken.
The mayor had reportedly received a briefing from the country’s Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM) early Wednesday evening. Only the Christmas market (Winter Wonders) is set to remain. The Mayor also said that the security of people visiting the city centre would be ensured.
On December 18th, the City issued a press release claiming it would host an “exceptional evening at the heart of our capital” with “fireworks and a multitude of animations between the Bourse and Place de Brouckère”.
The press release was reissued last night, leading to some confusion over the renewed threat.
After the November 13th attacks in Paris, hundreds of properties were raided across the Belgian capital, which is also home to the European Union’s major institutions including the European Parliament and European Commission.
The city’s area of Molenbeek was identified as one of the “no go areas” linked to the Paris plotters, and soon after, the entire city was placed on “lockdown” as security services investigated more threats.
Yesterday, Brussels police were reported to have arrested two suspected terrorists thought to be planning atrocities on New Year’s Eve. The raids took place on Sunday and Monday, with police seizing military clothing and computer equipment. They also found pro-Islamic State propaganda.
The BBC reported that no explosives or weapons were found, but one of those arrested is believed to be leading and recruiting for a terror cell.