The last patrols of the Belgian army, which had been guarding the city’s security for six years, disappeared from the streets and stations in Brussels. Soldiers were deployed to the Belgian capital in 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris. The duties of the soldiers will now be taken over by the police.
The military operation Vigilant Guardian, consisting of Belgian soldiers patrolling streets, metro stations and train stations, began in early 2015 after attacks on the editorial office of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris and was significantly strengthened after the terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016. At the peak of the operation – in October 2016 – 1,828 soldiers were mobilized to perform it.
From the end of 2020, security patrols were gradually taken over by Brussels policemen. According to a statement by Belgium’s defense and home affairs ministers, the army will continue to provide protection to some embassies for “some time”. However, these tasks will also be taken over by the police by the end of this year.
The decision to withdraw troops from the streets of the Belgian capital was made by the government after consulting the intelligence services. The current terrorist threat level in Belgium is 2 on a 5-point scale.
Terrorist attacks in Belgium and France
On March 22, five years have passed since the Brussels bombings. Apart from suicide bombers, 32 people died there, including a 61-year-old Polish woman. The trial of surviving terrorists related to the so-called Islamic State will begin in 2022.
In November 2015, a series of attacks in Paris took place, killing a total of 137 people.
Main photo source: Robin Utrecht / ABACA / EPA / PAP