Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels the threat level was raised on 22 March to its maximum level (4/4) across Belgium by the OCAM, the agency that coordinates threat analyses. Consequently, a further 225 soldiers will reinforce the Vigilant Guardian operation which has been deployed since January 2015.
Level 4, which means that the threat is “serious and imminent”, automatically triggers reflex measures. “Public transport has been halted and all metro and train stations are shut. All transport to Zaventem airport is impossible,” the Belgian Ministry of the Interior’s crisis centre said in a statement. Apart from these measures, threat level 4 means that concert halls, museums and shopping centres are closed, some schools have been evacuated and troops have been urgently deployed to support the police in protecting sensitive sites.
At the time of writing, soldiers of the 12/13 Line are assembling at their barracks in Spa (southern Belgium), ready for imminent deployment to the Belgian capital, the battalion’s press officer told FOB.
The 187 bomb disposal experts of the Belgian Army’s removal and destruction of explosive devices services (SEDEE) have also been extremely busy since this morning, and have so far neutralised three suspect parcels in various different places in Brussels.
Finally, the army Medical service and the Belgian Air Force have placed themselves at the disposal of the Brussels’ city authorities. Three transport helicopters have been kept on alert for emergency transfers of the injured to the military hospital of Neder-Over-Heembeek.
The Vigilant Guardian operation has been in place since January 2015. On 4 March the Belgian government confirmed that the army would remain deployed in the country for another month to guard a number of sensitive sites and institutions. The decision meant that 1,000 soldiers were mobilised, of whom 700 were visible in the streets and 40 were protecting the nuclear power stations at Doel and Tihange.