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    Jun 22, 2016

    Man with fake suicide vest nabbed in Brussels


    A MAN with a fake suicide belt was arrested after a bomb scare at a shopping centre triggered a major anti-terror operation in central Brussels yesterday.

    Belgium remains on a high state of alert after bomb attacks in March - claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - left 32 dead at the airport and on the metro.

    Yesterday's incident began at about 6.30am local time after a report of a man acting suspiciously near the City 2 mall set off a bomb alert.

    A bomb squad was immediately deployed.

    "No bomb has so far been found. The suicide vest found on a suspect was fake," the Brussels prosecutors office told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

    Prime Minister Charles Michel said after an emergency meeting of his security Cabinet: "The situation is for now under control. We remain vigilant."

    Only one exit remained open at the nearby Rogier metro station where soldiers checked passengers' bags and belongings.

    Police and soldiers also sealed off the immediate area, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

    The incident comes only days after the Belgian authorities charged three men with "attempted terrorist murder" after raiding dozens of homes linked to a reported threat to fans watching a Euro 2016 football game.

    The areas searched included neighbourhoods in Brussels where November's attackers in Paris and the Brussels suicide bombings had planned their assaults.

    Per capita, Belgium has the highest number of so-called foreign fighters in the European Union who have travelled to Syria and Iraq, an estimated 500.

    After Saturday's swoop, Mr Michel said the country would be taking "additional and updated security measures".

    On Saturday, a source close to the Belgian authorities confirmed to AFP that several leading political figures have recently had their security increased.

    According to state broadcaster RTBF and daily Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, 30 people and their families have had their personal security stepped up since Friday, including the Prime Minister, Interior Minister and Justice Minister.

    Euro 2016 host France is also on high alert for possible attacks during the championship.