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Belgium’s justice minister threatened, investigation under way

20:20 26/09/2022

Security around Belgium's justice minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne, and his family has been tightened after an apparent kidnapping attempt was foiled.

Four people were arrested in the Netherlands, the federal prosecutor's office reported over the weekend, and an investigation is under way after Van Quickenborne received threats determined to be credible.

Various media report that a kidnapping attempt occurred, and firearms were found in a Dutch-registered vehicle outside the minister's home.

Meanwhile, a 100-metre security perimeter was set up around the minister's house on Monday evening after a suspect package was spotted and explosives experts were called to the scene.

“In a democracy, in our rule of law, we will never give in to violence – never,” Van Quickenborne said, adding a request for his family’s privacy to be respected as the investigation continues.

The arrests were made in The Hague, according to the Dutch public prosecutor's office, which did not give further details about the identity of the suspects.

“We can count on competent people in our country who work day and night to ensure our security,” Van Quickenborne said, thanking the security personnel and police officers who handled the incident.

“This time, I was the one targeted. Unfortunately, this is the reality that [security personnel] face on a regular basis, be they police officers or federal prosecutors. We must continue to fight. The criminals feel cornered, and that is legitimate. Because we will continue to fight organised crime, with more staff and resources than before.”

Het Laatste Nieuws reports that the vehicle found outside the minister’s home had Dutch plates and contained Kalashnikovs, explosive material, and possibly gas bottles. The car and all its materials were seized and all relevant authorities, including the anti-terrorism unit Ocam, were alerted.

Belgium’s prime minister Alexander De Croo denounced the threats as “totally unacceptable”, while echoing Van Quickenborne’s conviction that intimidation will not have the desired effect on law enforcement’s investigations into organised crime.

The Dutch justice minister, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, likewise offered words of support.

“We stand side by side for security in our countries,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ocam said that while the threat index has been raised in response to the incident, it is not rushing to conclusions about the involvement of extremists and does not wish to cause confusion by commenting much further.

The minister's security has been reinforced and some of his activities over the next few days have been cancelled.

Written by Helen Lyons