The annual New Year’s Eve festivities and fireworks in the heart of Brussels have been cancelled for security reasons, the mayor announced on Wednesday, as the Belgian capital remains on high alert over a possible terror threat.
“Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for Thursday evening and that would have brought a lot of people together in the centre of Brussels, following a risk analysis by the crisis centre,” mayor Yvan Mayeur told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.
Last year, some 100,000 people turned out to watch the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display at the Place de Brouckere.
Mayeur said in the current circumstances it wasn’t possible to “guarantee that we can check everyone coming to the event”.
“It’s better not to take any risks,” he added.
The Belgian capital, home to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, has been on high alert since the November 13 gun and suicide bombing attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.
A key suspect in the Paris attacks, Belgian-born fugitive Salah Abdeslam, is believed to have fled to Brussels in the hours after the massacre, which was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
The Belgian authorities have so far detained nine men in the case including four accused of helping Abdeslam get away from the crime scenes.
Earlier today, Belgian police held a man for questioning following a new search in the troubled Brussels immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek in connection with the Paris attacks.
Earlier this week, Belgian police arrested two people suspected of plotting attacks in Brussels during New Year festivities, with officers seizing military-style training uniforms, computer hardware and Islamic State propaganda material.