On Thursday morning, 55 servicemen were deployed in Liege, Huy and Verviers, mainly to guard courthouses. Their mission will be assessed after a month. The 55 soldiers, from the 12th line battalion based in Spa, are there at the request of local mayors, to support the police forces. There are 10 in Huy to protect the Tihange nuclear power station and the courthouse. 10 are also being sent to Verviers, around the courthouse, and the remaining 35 are deployed in Liege to secure the Prince-Bishops’ Palace and the new courthouses on Place Saint-Lambert.
The servicemen have been placed under the command of police authorities. “They belong to fighting units and are usually deployed abroad,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Pirson, commander of the 12th line batallion. “This is a unique opportunity for them to show their skills in their own country, and their motivation is even stronger.”
The military deployment should last a month. Federal authorities will then review the measure and decide if it should be extended. Lieutenant-Colonel Pirson adds that other military operations abroad will be maintained.
Whether similar military reinforcements are to be sent to other cities is a decision for the federal government. “Our intervention is part of an agreement between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence to enable 300 servicemen and women to be deployed in Belgium. 120 are already in place in Antwerp, 120 in Brussels, and with 55 in the Liege region, we are nearing 300. In order to provide more military personnel we would need to re-examine the agreement or make certain choices.”