22 Nov 2015

Security clampdown in Brussels extended

Belgium’s terror threat level remains at it highest level, the prime minister said today.

Contrary to some of the rather more excitable reports about the Belgian capital being a “ghost town” the truth is rather more prosaic.

This is Belgium – a country of eight governments and this is Brussels – a city of 19 mayors and yes you read that right: 19.

So if the “authorities” advise restaurants to close they would likely be ignored.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 22: Belgian soldiers with armored vehicles patrol in streets, in Brussels where all stores had to close following the terror alert level being elevated to 4, in Brussels, Belgium, on November 22, 2015. Belgium raised the alert status at Level 4 as 'serious and imminent' threat of an attack, the main effect are closing of all metro line in Brussels, all soccer match of leagues cancel in all country. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In great measure that is what has happened. Of course many did shut their doors but our restaurant last night was packed. And packed mostly with middle-aged and retired customers, not youthful risk-takers.

From Belgium’s rich matrix of governing bodies a variety of statements about the need to be “serene” as Prime Minister Charles Michelle put it yesterday.

So of course the city is quiet. The tourists have no open museums to visit or evening concerts to attend. But then again they have armoured personnel carriers outside the Hotel de Ville and even outside their hotels – very willing to be backdrops for memorable times in this city.

The expected re-opening of the metro system did not happen at 3pm today. Nor the press conference scheduled for around the same time at which said re-opening was to have been announced , or so it was supposed.

Instead it happened early evening and the news is not good. Brussels schools will be shut tomorrow as well as the metro – inflicting serious economic damage on the capital.

In the last hour it seems the security clampdown in Brussels is being extended.

There are now five soldiers outside our hotel instead of two and their helmets are on for the first time. We are currently advised not to leave the hotel. In the last few minutes they have closed the door and are now very jumpy all of a sudden about being filmed.

The real test of all this comes of course tomorrow morning when Monday comes and the city has really to be the city again. The country where many of the Paris attack suspects came from faces real disruption for days and months to come.

Tweets by @alextomo

3 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    The NYT claims most of those who carried out attacks were known to French and Belgian intelligence services. Given prior knowledge, how does that justify the clampdown in Brussels? Are we really to believe the sight of armed troops and closures will afford any deterrence?

    1. Anna says:

      Your comment is very ithought provoking, as is intended. I am sure like much of the Military deterrence the sight of armed troops does more to fill citizens with fear and confusion as to who the enemy is. We fear the armed soldier with the guns and other ammunition equally we fear the masked Rebel/terrorist with their AK47’s etc., it seems these days that prior knowledge accounts for nothing, with all the Itelligence and high technology.we are no safer and nowhere near to World Peace. I do not believe military deterrence is an effective deterrence in any way.

  2. Andrew Dundas says:

    Hello Alex,
    Turkey & Russian have been here before, 170 years ago:

    Abdul Abulbul Amir

    The sons of the prophet were hardy and bold,
    And quite unaccustomed to fear,
    But the bravest of these was a man, I am told
    Named Abdul Abulbul Amir.

    This son of the desert, in battle aroused,
    Could spit twenty men on his spear.
    A terrible creature, both sober and soused
    Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

    When they needed a man to encourage the van,
    Or to harass the foe from the rear,
    Or to storm a redoubt, they had only to shout
    For Abdul Abulbul Amir.

    There are heroes aplenty and men known to fame
    In the troops that were led by the Czar;
    But the bravest of these was a man by the name
    Of Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    He could imitate Irving, play Euchre and pool
    And perform on the Spanish Guitar.
    In fact, quite the cream of the Muscovite team
    Was Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    The ladies all loved him, his rivals were few;
    He could drink them all under the bar.
    As gallant or tank, there was no one to rank
    With Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    One day this bold Russian had shouldered his gun
    And donned his most truculent sneer
    Downtown he did go, where he trod on the toe
    Of Abdul Abulbul Amir

    “Young man” quoth Bulbul, “has life grown so dull,
    That you’re anxious to end your career?
    Vile infidel! Know, you have trod on the toe
    Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.”

    “So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
    And send your regrets to the Czar;
    By this I imply you are going to die,
    Mr. Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.”

    Quoth Ivan, “My friend, your remarks, in the end,
    Will avail you but little, I fear,
    For you ne’er will survive to repeat them alive,
    Mr. Abdul Abulbul Amir!”

    Then this bold mameluke drew his trusty chibouque
    With a cry of “Allah Akbar!”
    And with murderous intent, he ferociously went
    For Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    Then they parried and thrust and they side-stepped and
    ‘Till their blood would have filled a great pot.
    The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
    Say that hash was first made on that spot.

    They fought all that night, ‘neath the pale yellow moon;
    The din, it was heard from afar;
    And great multitudes came, so great was the fame
    of Abdul and Ivan Skivar.

    As Abdul’s long knife was extracting the life –
    In fact, he was shouting “Huzzah!” – –
    He felt himself struck by that wily Kalmuck,
    Count Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    The sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
    Expecting the victor to cheer;
    But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh
    Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

    Czar Petrovich, too, in his spectacles blue
    Rode up in his new crested car.
    He arrived just in time to exchange a last line
    With Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    A loud-sounding splash from the Danube was heard
    Resounding o’er meadows afar;
    It came from the sack fitting close to the back
    Of Ivan Skavinsky Skovar.

    There’s a tomb rises up where the blue Danube flows;
    Engraved there in characters clear;
    “Ah stranger, when passing, please pray for the soul
    Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.”

    A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
    “Neath the light of the pale polar star;
    And the name that she murmurs as oft as she weeps
    Is Ivan Skavinsky Skivar.

    Written in 1877 by Percy French, an Irish music hall entertainer. The setting is the Crimean War in the 1850’s.

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