Belgium Bomb Alert Was False Alarm as Arrested Suspect Admits Fabricating Story

Belgian authorities said Tuesday afternoon the person they arrested earlier in the day wearing a fake explosives belt had made up his story and the incident was a false alarm.

The man, identified by authorities as J.B., called the police at 5:30 a.m. local time claiming he was kidnapped in a car before being dropped off near the shopping mall and strapped with an explosive belt designed to be detonated by a third party, prosecutors said.

The suspect was arrested at City2, a shopping mall, wearing what the bomb squad eventually found to be a fake explosive belt containing salt and biscuits, the prosecutor’s office said.

The arrest initially prompted the mall to be evacuated and nearby roads blocked, while officials called an emergency meeting at the country’s Crisis Center.

Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors said that after a search of the house of the suspect’s mother, they found the rest of the material that had been used to make the fake explosives belt. The suspect subsequently admitted he had fabricated the story.

Earlier, Belgian officials said they were investigating claims of terrorist links to the suspect. The prosecutor’s office said that the person was previously known to authorities for various offenses and mental health problems. The suspect contacted police earlier this month, saying he was encouraged to join Islamic State in Syria.

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