Terror fear douses Brussels party

Other News Materials 31 December 2007 09:20 (UTC +04:00)

Traditional New year's Eve fireworks in the Belgian capital Brussels have been cancelled because of a security alert.

The Christmas market will close at 1800 instead of staying open all night, and even the ice rink will close early.

"We are still facing a potential threat," a spokesman for the Belgian capital said.

The alert follows police saying they had discovered a plot to free a jailed al-Qaeda suspect, Nizar Trabelsi. He has denied any such plot.

Last week police detained 14 people suspected of taking part in the alleged plot. But a judge said there was not enough evidence to hold any of them.

Trabelsi himself wrote to a Belgian newspaper to deny any attempt to carry out a jailbreak or terror attack.

The government raised security levels, with increased patrols at Brussels airport, transport systems and commercial centres, and says it sees no reason to lower them.

"We've reviewed the situation and the conclusion is that there is no reason to scale back the current level of (terror) alert," Jaak Raas of the government's Crisis Centre said.

Trabelsi, 37, is a Tunisian who came to Europe to play professional football in 1989.

He was arrested two days after the 9/11 attacks on targets in New York and Washington, and is now serving 10 years for plotting to blow up an air base in Belgium used by US personnel. ( BBC )