A branch of the Dutch bank ING in Hechtel-Eksel in Flanders was subject to a robbery attempt by criminals armed with explosives early in the morning on 29 July, according to information released by the Limburg prosecutor’s office.
A loud explosion and shouting was heard by local residents at around 4:15 in the morning. According to preliminary information, the thieves were unable to get away with any bank property. The perpetrators fled the scene of the crime in a vehicle and have yet to be arrested. According to local newspaper Het Belang van Limburg, an eyewitness saw a suspect carrying a backpack, which may have carried the explosive.
“Hechtel-Eksel is otherwise such a quiet municipality,” acting mayor Nele Lijnen told Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. “The neighbourhood was shocked.” The blast has also put an adjacent flower shop out of action, as staff were unable to enter due to the surrounding police cordon.
The local police have begun an investigation into the incident and the Limburg public prosecutor’s office has been informed.
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Belgium has developed a nasty reputation for grenade attacks and the use of explosives in recent years, especially in attempted robberies, however the number of incidents has decreased in recent years. Last year, criminals targeted a KBC bank branch in Zolder with an explosive device, which fortunately failed to detonate.
In 2019, nearby Limburg suffered a string of explosive attacks, including a criminal journalist who had a hand grenade left at his doorstep.