A student sparked a bomb scare when he was seen in central Brussels on Wednesday, wearing a thick winter coat on a hot summer’s day and with wires protruding. Belgian police sealed off the area, calling in the bomb squad.
As noted by CNN, wearing a winter coat is not the usual scenario in temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), and police immediately became suspicious after spotting the man. Brussels police sealed off the Place de la Monnaie public square in the city, calling in bomb experts to investigate the situation.
The operation brought the area of Brussels to a standstill and a nearby library was evacuated as police established a security perimeter.
After the bomb squad used a robot to carry out an initial check on the man, it was revealed there were metal plates underneath the man’s coat, which raised further suspicions. The man was then taken in for questioning.
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) July 20, 2016
The Daily Mail reports that after several hours of investigation, Brussels police established that the man was not a threat. It turns out he was not aspiring to be a jihadi, but was, instead, a student, researching radioactivity in the city.
The student is reportedly of Iranian origins and is studying at Ghent University. He was in the city to compare radiation levels between the city and the countryside. It turns out the student was unable to answer questions by the police, as he does not speak either French or Flemish, both of which are the languages used in Belgium. This reportedly led to the confusion.
A police spokesman told reporters after the incident, “The way in which he reacted initially was not normal, which is why we had to use such measures.”
— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) July 20, 2016
A spokesman for Ghent University later confirmed that the student had been carrying a special “prototype” of wearable equipment, designed to measure background radiation.
“This instrument takes the form of a jacket containing cables and batteries, which was considered suspect,” the spokesman said.
The university also confirmed that the student is of Iranian origin and speaks fluent English. He regrettably did not immediately show police a document confirming his research in the city.
It turns out the false alarm came just as Brussels is on high alert ahead of the Belgian national day celebrations. Following the Islamic State bomb attacks on the airport and metro in March, authorities are not taking any chances.
The Daily Mail quotes police spokesman Christian de Coninck telling the local RTL-TVI TV station, “When the bomb disposal robot moved towards the person under surveillance he made some very worrying statements that led us to fear that he had explosives on him.”
De Coninck went on to say, “He was a student who was going to do his studies in radiation. So all the belongings he had on him, which were very suspect, were in fact harmless.”
Following last week’s brutal Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France, killing 84, and the previous Islamist militant attack on Brussels Airport which killed 32 back in March, police remain on high alert.
— Europe 2424 (@europe2424) July 20, 2016
The incident also follows another apparent false alarm where a man with psychiatric problems caused a major anti-terror operation at a Brussels shopping mall. As reported by the Inquisitr at the time, it turned out the “suicide belt” he was wearing was full of salt and cookies.