Belgium arrests man suspected of plotting attack against US embassy

A security officer checks a car at the US embassy in Brussels. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 June 2019

Belgium arrests man suspected of plotting attack against US embassy

  • The suspect identified only as M.G. appeared Monday morning before an investigating judge who ordered him held
  • Extremists have staged a number of attacks in Brussels, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO

BRUSSELS: Belgian counter-terror police have arrested a man suspected of plotting an attack against the US embassy in Brussels, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The police on Saturday arrested the man following “converging signs raising fears of an attack against the US embassy,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“The suspect has been detained for an alleged attempted attack within a terrorist context and preparation of a terrorist offense,” it said in a statement.
The suspect identified only as M.G. appeared Monday morning before an investigating judge who ordered him held, it added.
The suspect denies any involvement in the alleged plot.
A source close to the investigation told AFP the suspect is a Belgian man of around 40 years who had “raised suspicion because of his behavior.”
He had been seen “scouting” the embassy area before he was arrested, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source declined to say whether the suspect fit the profile of an extremist.
The US embassy was not immediately available for comment.
Extremists have staged a number of attacks in Brussels, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.
The worst was on March 22, 2016, when suicide bombers killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others at Brussels airport and a metro station near EU buildings.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the twin attacks.
Since 2016, several other attacks, some of them also claimed by Daesh, have targeted Belgian police or soldiers.
The last “terrorist attack” occurred in the eastern city of Liege on May 29 last year when Benjamin Herman shot dead two women police officers and a student.
He was subsequently shot dead by the police.
Since the end of January 2018, the terror alert level in Belgium has been set at two, which means an attack is considered unlikely, the same as it was before January 2015.
A level three alert — indicating an attack is possible and likely — was set later in January 2015 after police smashed an extremist cell in the eastern city of Verviers.
The Belgian police raid occurred a week after attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket in Paris.
The level four alert — which means a serious and imminent threat of attack — has been put in place twice but for limited duration.
It was imposed for the first time for a week in the wake of the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris which claimed the lives of 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.
It was then raised from three to four in the days after the March 2016 attacks.
Police say they believe the same cell was behind both the French and Belgium attacks.


Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

Updated 15 September 2019

Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

  • The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests
  • Demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy

HONG KONG: Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters singing “God Save the Queen” and waving Union Jack flags rallied outside the British Consulate on Sunday demanding that the former colonial power ensures China honors its commitments to the city’s freedoms.
The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests, with demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, lays out Hong Kong’s future after its return to China in 1997, a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
“Sino-British Joint Declaration is VOID,” one placard read. “SOS Hong Kong,” read another.
“One country, two systems is dead,” they shouted in English under the sub-tropical sun, some carrying the colonial flag also bearing the Union Jack. “Free Hong Kong.”
With many young people looking for routes out of Hong Kong, campaigners say Britain should change the status of the British National (Overseas) passport, a category created after Britain returned Hong Kong to China. The passports allow a holder to visit Britain for six months, but do not come with an automatic right to live or work there.
“I am here to demand the UK protect our citizens’ rights in Hong Kong and speak up for Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration,” Jacky Tsang, 25, told Reuters.
The spark for the protests was planned legislation, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, despite Hong Kong having its own much-respected independent judiciary.
The protests have since broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement, denies meddling and says the city is an internal Chinese issue. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and told them to mind their own business.
Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by the 1984 declaration.
“The Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty between the UK and China that remains as valid today as it was when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in June.
“As a co-signatory, the UK government will continue to defend our position.”
But it was not immediately clear what Britain could or would want to do defend that position. It is pinning its hopes on closer trade and investment cooperation with China, which since 1997 has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy, after it leaves the European Union at the end of next month.
The Civil Human Rights Front has also called for a mass rally in Victoria Park, just to the east of the central business district, but police have denied permission because of earlier clashes after huge gatherings.
Protesters are expected to turn up early in the afternoon anyway.