Man’s alarm over Brussel’s lockdown

A Belgian Army soldier patrols on a main boulevard in Brussels
A Belgian Army soldier patrols on a main boulevard in Brussels

A ST Helens man has spoken of his terror of being in Brussels during a shock terrorism alert.

Hal Barrow had travelled to the Belgian capital on Friday for a weekend break with his wife, Janet, 55, and, on landing, was disturbed to discover the city was in lockdown amid fears of an attack by Islamic extremists.

It was quite intimidating as Brussels was completely locked down and there were police with guns

Hal Barrow

The Belgian authorities placed Brussels on its highest level of alert late on Friday, as a manhunt continued for the fugitive Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted in connection with last week’s attacks in Paris.

Friends said he was in the Brussels area and trying to get to Syria.

The city was a base for the attackers - Islamic State militants - who killed 130 people in Paris.

As police and soldiers patrolled the city, many shops and bars were closed after 6pm, but 66-year-old Hal said a few did remain open and he refused to let it ruin his holiday.

He said; “The place was surrounded in armed personnel, soldiers and police. It was quite intimidating as Brussels was completely locked down and there were police with guns.

“Everything was supposed to be shut by 6pm, but a lot of bars and restaurants stayed open.

“Most people carried on with what they were doing. The streets weren’t deserted but there was a feeling of great tension.

“It was quite surreal as whilst there was this shut down, the city’s authorities were putting up Christmas trees and a stable and manger for a nativity scene in the main square.

“It didn’t ruin the holiday and it didn’t stop us going out but it was very tense.

“We weren’t aware of the lockdown before we set off but we would have gone anyway. The airport was also heavy with security which we expected anyway.

“Our friends back home texted us to check if we were okay and we were.

“These terrorists won’t stop me from travelling in the future - I have travelled all over the world in a cruise ship as a comedian and I don’t intent to stop.”

Brussels still remains on high terror alert.

Belgian police have made 16 arrests in anti-terror raids, but suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam remains at large, the authorities have said.

A total of 22 raids were carried out Sunday across Brussels and Charleroi.