A man known only to the media as M.A (aged 27), the driver of a suspect vehicle, was intercepted yesterday afternoon (Thursday), and is still being held. The police found him close to the Porte de Hal in Brussels, in his vehicle which contained two gas bottles in its boot. The decision as to whether or not to issue an arrest warrant will be taken during today (Friday). M.A already has a criminal record.
He was sentenced by the Brussels Court of Appeal to five years in prison in 2016. The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated today (Friday) that M.A. had, at that time, been involved in the activities of a terrorist group.
The Brussels Midi local police zone (which covers Forest, Saint-Gilles and Anderlecht) carried out an inspection of a vehicle yesterday (Thursday) around 2 p.m., which was on fire close to the Porte de Hal. Police at that point noticed the presence of two gas bottles in the vehicle. They proceeded to detain the driver.
The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Ofice was informed of the facts of the case. Taking no chances, a safety cordon was put in place and the Service for Removal and Destruction of Explosive Devices (SEDEE), which is part of the army, was called for.
It turned out that in relation to the gas bottles, there was a full gas bottle and an empty gas bottle in the car. No detonator was found in the vehicle.
As we mentioned earlier, the vehicle driver, M.A., already has a previous conviction. He was sentenced by the Brussels Court of Appeal to five years in prison in 2016. His crime: involvement in the activities of a terrorist group.
Taking account of the criminal profile of the individual concerned, as well as the context of his arrest, the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened a judicial enquiry. It is currently proceeding with all relevant checks and useful lines of enquiry as per its duties.
The Brussel Public Prosecutor’s Office will thus be able to determine for definite why the man was driving with gas bottles in his vehicle. M.A has already explained that the gas bottles were intended for domestic use. The initial findings of the investigation seem to confirm his explanation.
Other checks in relation to the case are currently in progress. For the moment, the case has not been referred to an investigating judge.