Brussels Mosque Powder Scare Turns Out to be False Alarm

Belgium Brussels France Europe
A Belgian police officer stands guard outside the Grand Mosque in Brussels, Belgium, November 26, 2015. Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Firecrews and decontamination teams attended a major mosque in Brussels close to the European Union headquarters on Thursday to investigate a suspect powder that police later said turned out to be flour.

Reuters journalists saw about a dozen emergency vehicles, including police, outside the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium, a large Saudi-established institution including a mosque situated 200 meters from the European Commission.

A spokeswoman for the fire service said it had taken a call from the mosque from a person saying they believed that they had found anthrax powder, prompting the deployment of specialist crews. A police spokesman later said the substance was flour.

Since the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 by French and Belgian Islamic State militants, there have been reports of threats against mosques used by Belgium's half million Muslims, among them some from an unknown group calling itself Christian State.

The false alarm comes the day after the lockdown imposed on the Belgian capital following the Paris attacks was lifted. Children returned to reopened schools and a number of metro stations reopened on Wednesday but the security threat level remained at its maximum level due to fears of an imminent attack similar to those in Paris earlier this month.

Salah Abdeslam, the eighth suspect in the November 13 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead, is still at large two weeks after the night of horror in the French capital.

The atmosphere in the city remains tense as authorities continue to search for Abdeslam and other militants plotting attacks in the country. Belgian soldiers and police continued to patrolling the city's streets, guarding the reopened metro stations and schools.