The presence of military personnel on the streets of Belgium will be extended until 2 October, the federal council of ministers has decided.
The use of the military for regular security work dates back to January 2015, when Operation Vigilant Guardian was launched, in reaction to the break-up of a terrorist cell in Verviers, and the attack in Paris on the magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Then in March 2016 came the terrorist attacks on Brussels Airport and the Brussels metro, and the number of military personnel involved increased.
Soldiers were detailed to provide support to police in guarding sensitive targets, but also became a familiar sight simply patrolling in the streets.
Since 2016, the numbers of soldiers involved in the operation has gradually diminished, and the latest decision foresees the presence of 550 military for the whole country. Their mission, originally supposed to end on 3 September, has been extended until 2 October.
A new risk analysis by the risk management agency OCAD places the country as a whole on code 2, the second-lowest of four, with code 3 for certain potentially sensitive targets, such as nuclear sites, the Great Synagogue in Brussels or the US embassy.
The decision to prolong the mission for a month comes after a proposal backed by foreign minister Philippe Goffin (MR) and home affairs minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V), and in opposition to the wish of the military authorities to end it altogether.
Although the decision allows to up to 550 personnel to remain on patrol, the real number will be closer to 200, Goffin said, with another 100 on call in case of emergency.