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Belgian police detain three hostage takers who occupied Ghent apartment

Belgian police detain three hostage takers who occupied Ghent apartment
Police has taken the men into custody - who left the building with their hands up - and the hostage has now been released unharmed.

It was still unclear why the men had taken the hostage but the incident was declared as  not an act of terror, federal police spokeswoman Annemie Serlippens said. ‘There appears to be nothing political,’ she said.

The incident sparked fears it could be linked to terrorism, occurring hours after police in Australia locked down the centre of Sydney after an Islamist fanatic took numerous hostages in a cafe.

The siege in the Dampoort district in Ghent ended at around 1pm when armed police in balaclavas emerged from the cordoned-off building and began reopening roads - with one saying: ‘It’s over’.

Witnesses reported seeing the men carrying Kalashnikovs, but no weapons have been recovered by police yet. Belgian broadcaster VRT reported neighbours claiming that the flat had been used by drug dealers.

A spokeswoman for state prosecutors said witnesses had reported the men were carrying Kalashnikovs - but none have been found yet.She said: ‘Three men have been taken away though there were no weapons found.

‘The earlier reports were of four men with Kalashnikovs.’ She added: ‘It’s not entirely clear whether someone was in fact taken hostage.’ This morning, a wide perimeter around the scene in the Dampoort area of the city was blocked off urged residents to remain indoors.   

More than 30 police officers had been called out to the scene this morning, but a police source said they believed the incident to be drug-related.  

‘For the time being we have no indication that there is a link to terrorism,’ said a spokesperson for the state prosecution service.  

They said: ‘There is no indication that this is anything to do with terrorism. This is possibly related to drugs.’   

This morning, head of Ghent police Filip Rasschaert told De Standaard that federal authorities were taking control of the situation and added they were carrying out the operation carefully because of the potential involvement of a hostage. ‘They have all they need to bring a successful end to a hostage-taking,’ he said.

‘There is information that a hostage might have been taken, so we err on the side of caution.’ 



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