Traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks in central Brussels have been canceled due to a continuing terror threat in the Belgian capital, officials said Sunday.
The popular downtown Christmas market will close early, at 6 p.m., on Dec. 31 rather than staying open all night, and the adjacent skating rink will shut at 8 p.m.
Authorities warned of an increased risk of attack after police last week detained 14 people suspected of plotting to help an accused al-Qaida militant break out of jail.
The inmate, Nizar Trabelsi, 37, is a Tunisian ex-professional soccer player who is serving 10 years for plotting to drive a car bomb into the cafeteria of a Belgian air force base housing about 100 U.S. military personnel.
However, in a letter published by the daily newspaper La Derniere Heure, Trabelsi denied that his supporters were plotting his jailbreak or any terror attack.
A judge ordered his supporters’ release for lack of evidence, and all suspects have maintained their innocence.
Authorities said the city would maintain heightened security measures until at least Jan. 3.
“We’ve reviewed the situation and the conclusion is that there is no reason to scale back the current level of (terror) alert,” said Jaak Raes, director general of the government’s Crisis Center. “The aim is not to create panic … but to avoid unnecessary risks.”
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