Prosecutors: Brussels attack was probably arson, not a bomb

Damage can be seen at the building of the National Criminology Lab in Brussels on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Belgian media reported an explosion rocked the building in the early hours of Monday, the cause was not immediately known. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Reports of a bomb outside Belgium’s criminal institute early Monday are probably false, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said, describing the incident as much more likely an arson attack designed to destroy criminal evidence.

“It’s probably not terrorism. It’s a criminal act,” said spokeswoman Ine Van Wymersch. “I cannot confirm that there was any bomb.”

State broadcaster RTBF and other outlets had reported that a car drove through a security barrier at the site about 2 a.m. (0000 GMT), followed by an explosion that caused significant damage to the facility on Brussels’ north side. Nobody was injured.

The crime lab assists and advises Belgium’s justice authorities in carrying out their investigations.

Investigators said the suspected arsonists set fire to a laboratory used to analyze DNA samples found at crime scenes.

“So it’s an act that could be linked to (destroying) several files,” Van Wymersch said.

She said any explosion heard by residents may have been caused by material being consumed in the fire.

Belgium has been on high alert since coordinated March 22 suicide bomb attacks on the Brussels airport and subway killed 32 people.

Belgium’s police and army have been deployed in large numbers since the suicide bomb attacks in Paris last November that left 130 dead.

Tensions have been running high in Belgium in recent weeks amid a series of criminal knife and shooting attacks and two hoax anthrax attacks. These triggered spikes in security but were deemed unrelated to terrorism.

 

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