Three shopping centres in the Brussels area were evacuated by police on Friday after receiving bomb threats. All calls turned out to be hoaxes. The calls received concerned Woluwe Shopping in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Docks Bruxsel in Laeken in Brussels-City (photo) and Westland Shopping in Anderlecht. The first call about a bomb in Woluwe Shopping led to the centre being evacuated and searched by police with a sniffer dog, before it was announced the call was a false alarm. Many customers were forced to leave behind their cars in the parking garage when the evacuation took place.
Then came the warning about Docks, reportedly received by the managers of the shopping centre. “The evacuation was carried out without incident and there will now be a sweep of the building,” said a spokesperson for the Brussels-Capital Ixelles police zone. Customers in the White cinema complex in the centre were locked in until the sweep could be carried out. That alert too turned out to be a false alarm.
Westland Shopping, meanwhile, was also the subject of a heightened state of alert, although there had been no bomb alert. The centre was not evacuated, but no new customers were allowed to enter after the arrival of police.
The three shopping centres remained closed for a time on Saturday morning as security verifications were being completed by police.
The shopping centre bomb alerts came after hoax alerts on Wednesday at schools in Aarschot, Diest and Westerlo, which led to 20,000 pupils being evacuated. Police are now investigating the source of the hoax calls, whose perpetrators could face heavy fines of up to 1,800 euros or a prison sentence of up to two years, not to mention a civil lawsuit by the businesses affected.