Brussels center closed off as police detain suspicious man; bomb squad called

Updated: 2016-07-20 23:32

By Fu Jing in Brussels and Chris Peterson in London(

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Brussels center closed off as police detain suspicious man; bomb squad called

A cyclist rides past the Royal Palace in Brussels as workers set up platforms for the traditional military parade of Belgium's National Day, July 15, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Police and bomb squad specialists sealed off streets around the Place del La Monnaie in central Brussels today after a man was spotted wearing a heavy winter coat with wires protruding from it, despite high 30 degree Celsius summer temperatures.

Eyewitnesses said the man had been forced to kneel with his hands up as police held him at gunpoint for several hours. Bomb squad specialists were checking him.

Police later said it had been a false alarm and it was established that the man was a nuclear physics student. They gave no further details.

Shops were evacuated and streets closed as police said the man was "under control."

The incident comes only hours before the country celebrates its National Day, with a series of events that entailed closing streets and redirecting traffic in the city centre.

The events include a grand ball, concerts, religious services, military parades and street stalls selling food and drink.

There will be a huge firework display tomorrow evening, exactly a week after similar celebrations in neighboring France to celebrate Bastille Day were marred by a terror attack on a crowd watching a late night firework show in Nice.

The attacker drove a truck at high speed into a crowd, killing 84 and injuring 202 before dying in a shootout with police. Officers found automatic rifles, assault weapons and a dummy grenade in the cab.

In March three suicide bombers killed 32 people and injured more than 300 in attacks in the centre of Brussels and the airport. The three bombers died.

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