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Four arrested in anti-terrorist operation in Belgium, Botanique concert hall targeted

Belgium federal police special units
15:43 04/03/2024

A planned terror attack thwarted by police “concretely” targeted the Botanique concert venue in Brussels, according to the federal prosecutor’s office, reports RTBF.

The popular concert venue in Brussels was to be targeted “in a few weeks”, police said on Monday.

One adult and three minors were arrested in Brussels, Ninove, Charleroi and Liège on Sunday morning as part of an anti-terrorism operation carried out by the federal prosecutor's office. The four operations were carried out with support from special units of the federal police.

The adult suspect has been placed under arrest warrant and charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and preparatory acts for an attack. The three minors have been placed at the disposal of an investigating judge in Dendermonde, said the prosecutor’s office.

All four suspects were in contact with each other through a chat group. References were made to the Islamic State (IS) group in their conversations. They allegedly searched for weapons on the dark web. No weapons or explosives were found during the searches on Sunday.

The Botanique concert venue was targeted by the suspects. “According to the first elements of the investigation, it appears that a Brussels performance hall was particularly and concretely targeted and an action planned in a few weeks,” said police.

The exchange of messages between the suspects was considered  "sufficiently worrying for us to intervene", it added.

The Botanique announced it would maintain its activities in accordance “with all current safety standards”.  It said its management team has been in regular contact with the police and would continue to communicate with police over the coming days.

“If more information becomes available, everything will be done to optimally guarantee the safety of the public, artists and staff,” it said in a press statement.

Current terror threat

Belgium’s coordination unit for threat analysis (CUTA) reported a 41% increase in reports of potential threats related to terrorism or extremism in Belgium last year, compared to 2022 levels.

The current threat level for Belgium is 3 (on a scale of 4), denoting a “serious” level. The unit cites the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East as one reason for the increased number of threats.

This article was updated on 4 March at 20.30 following new information from federal police and the Botanique.

Photo: ©Belga

Written by The Bulletin