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Found 8 results

  1. Emergency rescue personnel attend to the scene where a building collapsed in Antwerp, Belgium, January 15, 2018. Image obtained from social media. Landry Zoki/via REUTERS1 BRUSSELS: An explosion injured several people and brought down a residential building in the Belgian city of Antwerp on Monday evening, police said, stressing the incident was not related to terrorism. Belgian news agency Belga reported five people had been injured. Antwerp police said two adjacent buildings might have also been damaged in what state broadcaster RTBF said was a gas explosion. Belgium has been on high alert since deadly suicide bombings in 2016 and a wave of extremist attacks across Europe.
  2. A wild wolf has been found in the northern Belgian region of Flanders for the first time in more than a century, an environmental group said Saturday. Photo: AFP file BRUSSELS: A wild wolf has been found in the northern Belgian region of Flanders for the first time in more than a century, an environmental group said Saturday. "Our country was the only one in continental Europe to have not been visited by a wolf," since the animal began recolonising the continent, Landschap said. Overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl progressively led to the disappearance of the wolf from most of Western Europe since the beginning of the 20th century. Since the Bern Convention of 1979, the wolf has gone from public enemy to a protected species as "a fundamental element of our natural European heritage". In some countries, like Romania and Poland where there have always been wolves, people adapt to treat an attack on sheep "like an accident, like a flock that falls into a ravine", says Farid Benhammou, a specialist on predators. But in the new zones of wolf colonisation ? in France and in some regions of Italy and Spain ? there are major tensions, with farmers particularly unhappy at their re-emergence. The wolf detected in Flanders in early January had an electronic tracker collar around its neck which allowed it to be identified as coming from neighbouring Germany. The same animal had been spotted around Christmas in the Netherlands, according to Landschap. "In recent days the wolf has stayed near the Flemish town of Beringen and the military base at Leopoldsburg. The animal has covered 500 kilometres (300 miles) in ten days," the group said. In 2011 hidden cameras picked up images at night of what was very likely a wolf in the Ardennes region of southern Belgium. But without any DNA traces, or any further appearances, the sighting could not be confirmed. Groups in support of biodiversity welcomed the latest news of a wolf detected in Belgium, calling on the government to adopt a strategy to encourage the return of the species to the country on a more permanent basis, including compensation to farmers whose livestock are attacked.
  3. BRUSSELS: A Belgian judge has granted conditional release to sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers, and the group is scheduled to appear at court within 15 days, Belgian prosecutors said on Monday. Puigdemont, who turned himself into Belgian police after Spain issued a European arrest warrant for rebellion and misuse of public funds, is barred from leaving Belgium without a judge?s consent. ?The next step in the proceedings is the appearance of the five defendants before the Chambre du Conseil within the next 15 days,? prosecutors said in a statement.
  4. A Belgian special forces police officer patrols a street during a police raid in central Brussels, Belgium, December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman BRUSSELS: The probe into a 2015 Daesh attack on a high-speed train bound for Paris took a step forward Monday as Belgian police held four men suspected of helping the gunman in his preparations. Prosecutors said that following a series of raids around Brussels, "four people were taken in for questioning" and a judge would later rule on what further action to take against them. A bloodbath was only narrowly averted on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in August 2015 when quick-thinking passengers including two off-duty US servicemen subdued gunman Ayoub El Khazzani ? who was armed with a Kalashnikov, a pistol, and a box-cutter knife ? as he opened fire. The detentions add fresh weight to the links between Khazzani and the French-Belgian Daesh network responsible for the Paris attacks of November 2015 and the triple suicide bombings in Brussels in March 2016. Belgian media reported that at least three of the four detainees knew the men who carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks, which between them left more than 160 people dead. Those held on Monday include Mohamed Bakkali, who was already in custody charged with helping to organise the November 2015 Paris attacks, according to his lawyer. Thalys attacker Khazzani ? a Moroccan who fought for Daesh in Syria ? has told investigators he was acting on the orders of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of the Paris attacks, whom he met in the war-torn Middle Eastern country. No weapons found Prosecutors said "no explosives nor weapons were found" during Monday's raids, one of which was in the gritty Brussels district of Molenbeek. The district gained notoriety as a hotbed of international jihadists after the attacks in the French and Belgian capitals. A 29-year-old man was detained in Molenbeek on suspicion of housing Khazzani as well as Abaaoud, a judicial source said. The suspect, who has not been named, was convicted of armed robbery with a Kalashnikov in 2009 alongside Khalid El Bakraoui ? one of the suicide bombers who attacked Brussels, according to the RTBF news channel. Abaaoud, the leader of the attacks on Parisian bars and restaurants, died in a shootout with police in the suburb of Saint Denis five days after the carnage that killed 130 people. Another raid on Monday netted a friend of Bakkali and Bakraoui, on suspicion of buying around 15 Kalashnikov magazines in summer 2015, according to Belgian media. "There are connections between the cell behind the Paris and Brussels attacks and the plan to attack the Thalys through Abaaoud and (Redouane Sebbar), but not enough today to say Khazzani's plot came from this same cell," a source close to the case said. Sebbar, a Moroccan currently being held in Germany, is suspected of having a hand in the Thalys plot. Last week French authorities announced they had issued an arrest warrant for him in July. The arrests were carried out by a joint French-Belgian investigating team under the authority of a Belgian anti-terrorism judge.
  5. Belgium's Davis Cup team celebrates after beating Australia in Brussels PARIS: Australia´s hopes of reaching a first Davis Cup final in 14 years were shattered Sunday when Belgium fought back from an overnight deficit to win their semi-final 3-2 and set-up a title showdown with neighbours France. Steve Darcis, the 33-year-old world number 77, held his nerve in the deciding rubber in Brussels, coasting to a 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Jordan Thompson, a last-minute call-up by Australia skipper Lleyton Hewitt to replace John Millman. David Goffin had levelled the semi-final earlier Sunday by coming back to defeat Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, claiming his 15th win in 16 Davis Cup singles rubbers. Nine-time champions France made the final by seeing off Serbia 3-1 in Lille and will host the Belgians in the November 24-26 championship match. France won their most recent Davis Cup in 2001 before losing the 2002, 2010 and 2014 finals. Belgium made the final in 2015, losing to Britain. Darcis won his 22nd Davis Cup tie but Goffin laid the foundation by winning both of his singles matches against Australia who claimed the last of their 28 titles back in 2003. "When David Goffin plays like that, he´s one of the best in the world," said Kyrgios, whose own record in the tournament now stands at seven wins and two losses. "I can always do better, but he was simply too good today." Goffin admitted he was in peak form, firing 20 aces and 39 winners past Kyrgios. "This was probably my best ever Davis Cup match," said the world number 12. "It was also the best match I have served in my career." Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fought back from a set down against Dusan Lajovic to lead France into the final. Yannick Noah´s hosts went into the day needing just one victory from the final two singles rubbers to take an unassailable 3-1 lead against an understrength Serbia, who were missing Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki. ´Tennis craze´ Lajovic had stunned Lucas Pouille in the opening match on Friday and he eased to the opening set, only for Tsonga to find his rhythm and eventually cruise to a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win. "It was a joy to finish it on the third singles, for me, for the team and for all the people who came to support us," said Tsonga. "There were more than 18,000 people, it shows us that there is a craze for tennis in France." In the play-offs, where the winners will feature in the World Group next season, 2016 champions Argentina suffered the embarrassment of being relegated to the zonal groups after a 3-2 defeat to Kazakhstan in Astana. Switzerland, the 2014 winners, edged Belarus 3-2 in Biel despite the absence of Roger Federer and injured Stan Wawrinka. Boris Becker´s first outing as head of tennis with Germany ended with a 3-2 win over Portugal in Lisbon while the Netherlands overturned an overnight 1-2 deficit to beat 2012 and 2013 champions Czech Republic to win 3-2 in The Hague. It is the first time in 11 years that the Czechs have lost their World Group status. Hungary stunned Russia 3-1 in Budapest while 2005 champions Croatia, who were runners-up last year, also stay in the World Group with a 4-1 win against Colombia in Bogota. Rising star Denis Shapovalov, 18, led Canada to victory over India in Edmonton thanks to a 6-3, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 win over Ramkumar Ramanathan. Japan´s tie at home to Brazil in Osaka was washed out for the second successive day and will be completed on Monday.
  6. Belgium has admitted that it knew about fipronil in eggs in early June but kept it secret because of a fraud investigation Belgium accused the Netherlands on Wednesday of failing to inform it that eggs were tainted with insecticide despite knowing about the problem since last November, as Europe's latest food safety scandal deepened. Newly appointed Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme told a parliamentary hearing that Belgian's food safety agency obtained an internal Dutch document that "reports the observation of the presence of fipronil in Dutch eggs at the end of November 2016." "When a country like the Netherlands, one of the world's biggest exporters of eggs, does not pass on this kind of information, that is a real problem," said Ducarme, adding he has demanded an explanation from his Dutch colleagues. The Dutch food and goods watchdog NVWA rejected the claim. "The allegations that we knew about fipronil in eggs in November 2016 are untrue," NVWA inspector-general Rob van Lint said in a statement. However, he admitted his body received an "anonymous tip-off" in November 2016 that fipronil had indeed been used to clean chicken pens in order to combat red lice. "At that time there was no indication of an acute danger to food safety. There was not a single indication that fipronil could also be present in eggs," van Lint said. French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said he wanted "much more fruitful and rapid exchanges of information" with his EU partners over the scandal. His ministry announced at the same time an investigation into the French egg industry to check for fipronil. The European Commission, which oversees the 28-nation European Union's food safety alert system, refused to comment on if and when it was told about the reported Dutch finding. The Belgian hearing was called in response to an admission by officials at the weekend that they too knew about fipronil in eggs back in June, but kept it secret for nearly two months because of a parallel criminal fraud investigation. The insecticide scandal only became public on August 1 when authorities in the Netherlands ordered eggs pulled from supermarket shelves and urged shoppers to throw any they had away. Contaminated eggs have since been discovered in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and France, with several supermarkets pulling millions of eggs off the shelves. 'Defrauders must be punished' Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks but it is banned by the EU from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens. In large quantities, the insecticide is considered by the World Health Organisation to be "moderately hazardous" and can have dangerous effects on people's kidneys, liver and thyroid glands. The scandal has led to finger-pointing between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as they try to get to the bottom of how the scandal could happen. Ducarme said that Dutch knowledge of the problem since November only emerged when the Belgian food safety agency "through certain contacts was transferred, by chance, internal information" from its Dutch counterpart. If the Netherlands had notified Belgium sooner "our vigilance about fipronil would have been increased, greatly increased". Germany has meanwhile demanded answers from both countries. Criminal probes for suspected fraud are under way in Belgium and the Netherlands over the tainted eggs, but prosecutors in both countries have refused to give any details. "The defrauders must be punished harshly by the courts because, in order to enrich themselves personally, they have not hesitated to risk the health of consumers," Ducarme said. The problem is believed to stem from a substance used by a Dutch company, Chickfriend, that farmers in the Netherlands and Belgium say they hired to treat their chickens. A lawyer for a Belgian company, Poultry-Vision, says the firm sold it to Chickfriend but has not said where it got the substance. The French government says a Belgian company -- which it did not identify -- mixed fipronil with another, lawful, substance.
  7. The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld a Belgian ban on wearing the full-face niqab veil in public. The court ruled that the restriction sought to guarantee social cohesion, the "protection of the rights and freedoms of others" and that it was "necessary in a democratic society", a statement said. It said a bye-law adopted in June 2008 in the three municipalities of Pepinster, Dison and Verviers "could be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the preservation of the conditions of 'living together' as an element of the 'protection of the rights and freedoms of others'." The court said a country should also be given a "wide margin of appreciation in deciding whether and to what extent a limitation of the right to manifest one?s religion or beliefs was 'necessary'." Belgian banned the wearing of the full-face veil under a June 2011 law. It prohibits appearing in public "with a face masked or hidden, in whole or in part, in such a way as to be unidentifiable". Violations can result in fines and up to seven days in jail. France was the first European country to ban the niqab in April 2011. The European Court of Human Rights had already ruled on a challenge to the French law in 2014 when it also rejected arguments that the restriction breached religious freedom and individual human rights. The Belgian case was brought by two Muslim women, Samia Belcacemi, a Belgian national, and Yamina Oussar, a Moroccan. Both women said they chose of their own free will to wear the niqab and claimed their rights had been infringed and the law was discriminatory. After Belgium introduced the ban, Belcacemi continued wearing the veil for a while but stopped because of social pressure and fears she would be fined. Oussar told the court that she had decided to stay at home, the statement from the court said. In August 2008, Dakir had filed an application at the Belgium's Conseil d'Etat -- the country's constitutional court -- for the ban to be lifted but it dismissed the case on a technicality. The ECHR however said that decision was "excessively formalistic" and ordered Belgium to pay her 800 euros (about $900) in costs and expenses.
  8. Belgian troops in front of the Central Station in Brussels following the attack. Photo: Reuters Belgian counter-terrorism police are investigating the motives of a suspected suicide bomber shot dead by troops guarding a Brussels railway station after he set off explosives that failed to injure anyone. "We consider this a terrorist attack," prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told reporters, declining to comment on witness accounts that the man had shouted religious slogans before detonating what witnesses said were one or two devices in luggage. Broadcaster VTM quoted Interior Minister Jan Jambon as saying investigators had identified the man but were not releasing his name. A larger bomb failed to go off, VTM said. Public broadcaster VRT said investigators believed the man had a nail bomb that failed to detonate completely. Although no one was hurt, billows of smoke pouring through Central Station and memories of Daesh attacks in the city last year, and more recently in Britain, France and elsewhere, sent evening commuters racing for cover. Police halted rail traffic, evacuated the site and cleared streets crowded with tourists and residents enjoying a hot summer's evening in the historic city centre between the station and nearby Grand Place, Brussels' landmark Renaissance town square. The Belgian capital, home to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, has been on high alert since a Brussels-based Daesh cell organised an attack that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015. Associates of those attackers killed 32 people in their home city four months later. Since then, attacks in France, but also in Germany, Sweden and, most recently, in Britain, have been carried out in the name of Daesh by other young men, many of them locals, raising fears of more violence in a city where almost a quarter of the population of 1.2 million are Muslim. Witnesses spoke of a man who shouted Islamic slogans, including "Allahu Akbar" - God is greatest - in Arabic, in an underground area of the station still busy with commuters making their way home and seemed to set off one or two small blasts. 'Isolated acts' Security experts said Tuesday's incident could have been similar to "lone-wolf" assaults carried out by radicalised individuals with limited access to weapons and training. "Such isolated acts will continue in Brussels, in Paris and elsewhere. It's inevitable," Brussels security consultant Claude Moniquet, a former French agent, told broadcaster RTL. With Daesh under pressure in Syria - where Belgium has been the most fertile European recruiting ground for foreign fighters - he said attacks in Europe could increase, although many would be by "amateurs" doing little harm. He compared Tuesday's incident to that on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue a day earlier, when a man was killed when he rammed his car, filled with explosive and weapons, into a French police convoy. No one else was injured. Rail worker Nicolas Van Herrewegen told Reuters that he was heading downstairs toward the underground platforms that serve long-distance and suburban lines running under the city center. "There was a man shouting, and shouting and shouting," he said. "He was talking about the jihadists and all that and then at some point he shouted: 'Allahu Akbar' and blew up the little suitcase he had next to him. People just took off." He described the man as quite dark and with short hair and said he was wearing a white shirt and black jeans. Remy Bonnaffe, a 23-year-old lawyer who was waiting on the concourse for a train home to Ghent, said he was startled by an explosion as he listened to music on his headphones. He took a photograph, which he later posted on Twitter, of flames shooting up from what he thought was a briefcase. There was a second blast farther away, which he could not see, followed by what sounded like gunfire, prompting him to run. "I think we had some luck tonight," he told Reuters. "I'm happy that no one was injured and that this was basically a failed attempt." People just feet from the explosion appeared unhurt and he said he saw no obvious damage to nearby walls. As Prime Minister Charles Michel consulted his security advisers, the national alert was maintained at its second highest level. Michel, who convened a National Security Council meeting for 9am (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, tweeted his thanks to the security forces and railway staff for their professionalism and courage. Mainline trains were running through the station by the morning rush hour, but not stopping. The adjacent metro station was open as normal, the transport authorities said.