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Belgium’s terror threat level to remain at 3 for foreseeable future

15:08 30/10/2023

Belgium’s terror threat level will remain at 3 for some time, with the increased vigilance due to the attack in Brussels and also the conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to Gert Vercauteren, chief of Belgium’s counter-terrorism department OCAM.

Level 3 means a threat "remains serious". The threat level has been at 3 nationwide since the attack in Brussels earlier this month which left two Swedish football supporters dead, while in Brussels the level was briefly raised to the highest, level 4, before falling again.

The violence in the Middle East is an important factor in why the level is not changing, said Vercauteren, adding that the crisis there is “an emotional trigger event” that has a heavy impact on the population.

“In that climate, there is of course a high risk that certain people will express their anger or frustrations in a violent way,” Vercauteren told Radio 1.

“We are also already seeing an increase in threat reports. In the summer we were in a lull, now we have to sit down with the different services almost daily to deal with very worrying cases.”

Those cases include threats against the Jewish community on social media, along with concerns of copycat behaviour following other terrorist attacks elsewhere.

“We have to be very wary of that,” said Vercauteren. “I fear that we will be stuck with this for some time. We also have to see how things continue with the Gaza conflict, but I don't think the effects will disappear in the next few weeks.”

But Vercauteren stressed the importance of staying calm. “It’s important not to overreact, not to play the terrorists' game, because that's just what they want,” he said.

“We have to deal with it – as far as we can – wisely. It’s obviously not up to the OCAM to decide who should be on the streets, military or police, but I would advocate dealing with things through the normal route: increased vigilance, extra police.

"Let's keep a cool head, that's the best we can do in this situation."

Written by Helen Lyons