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2015 Brussels lockdown

2015 Brussels lockdown
Part of the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks
Location of Brussels within Belgium
ObjectivePrevention of an imminent Paris-style attack and capture of fugitive Salah Abdeslam
Date21–25 November 2015

From 21 to 25 November 2015, the government of Belgium imposed a security lockdown on Brussels, including the closure of shops, schools, public transportation, due to information about potential terrorist attacks in the wake of the series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on 13 November.[1][2][3][4][5] One of the perpetrators of the attack, Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, was thought to be hiding in the city. As a result of warnings of a serious and imminent threat, the terror alert level was raised to the highest level (four)[6] across the Brussels metropolitan area, and people were advised not to congregate publicly, effectively putting the city under lockdown.[1][2][4][5]


On the first day of the lockdown, Haaretz described, "an atmosphere of war. Army convoys passed through the streets. Armored cars were posted at central points, outside the royal palace, and at underground railway stations."[7] Police requested a social media blackout to prevent disclosure of police operations. Twitter users responded with cat pictures[8] (a reference to security level Four, or in French, quatre pronounced cat).[9]

On 23 November, the third day of the lockdown, all schools and universities remained closed along with the Metro. Prime Minister Charles Michel announced that the lockdown measures would stay in place, "for at least another week. But schools and the metro can be reopened gradually from Wednesday."[10][11][12]

The lockdown caused disruption to major institutions and organizations headquartered in the city, such as NATO, which removed all non-essential personnel on 23 November, and the European Union, which opened on Monday with reinforced security measures. Belgium's biggest bank KBC Bank entirely closed its headquarters on Monday.[13]

As the lockdown continued into its third day, the BBC described the city as having "come to a standstill."[12] After 5 days, the lockdown was lifted on 25 November, schools reopened and the metro resumed service[14] but some stores remained closed.[15] Like Paris, which saw a drop in tourism, Brussels saw an immediate drop in visitors and an increase in last minute hotel cancellations.[15] Some shops, cafes and hotels that remained open reported 90% to 100% drop in business.[16]


The lockdown is estimated to have cost 51.7 million per day, counting both the outlay on security and lost business income.[17] Belgium is also facing a demand from the police for a budgetary increment of €100 million to cover ongoing increases in costs due to the terrorism threat.[17]

The total cost was estimated at €350 million, and tourist numbers in December 2015 were down 20% on the previous December.[18] In January, in order to restore the city's reputation after the lockdown, Visit Brussels launched an initiative Call Brussels in which members of the public could call public telephones in the city via their computer.[18]

Arrests and charges

Salah Abdeslam (L) and Hamza Attou (R) captured on CCTV at a French petrol station hours after the attacks.

A reported 1,000 police officers were involved in the search for Salah Abdeslam.[19] Over the weekend police conducted at least 20 raids around the city and nearby areas, making 16 arrests but releasing 15 of these people.[20] Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said 23 November that a man had been charged with involvement in the Paris terrorist attacks and for membership of a terrorist organization.[21] On Monday 21 more arrests were made, with 17 released.[20]

On 24 November, evening prosecutors announced terrorism charges had been filed against four men:

  • Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri. Lawyers for these two men said they had admitted driving Salah Abdeslam from Paris to Brussels after the Paris attacks but said they had nothing to do with the attacks.
  • "Ali O.", a 31-year-old French national who lived in Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels.
  • "Lazez A.", a 39-year-old Moroccan also from Molenbeek arrested on 19 November. Two pistols and traces of blood were found in his car.[22]


King Philippe of Belgium addressed the Brussels lockdown and Paris attack in his annual Christmas Address. He said during his speech, "My special thanks go to all those who have fought for it and continue to work to ensure our safety, to identify the perpetrators of these attacks and to prevent new ones. These events have shown how important it is to invest in the judiciary, police, army and intelligence services. I also want to thank you all, and especially the people of Brussels, for your dignified and responsible behavior during this difficult time."[23]


Extended lockdowns of entire urban areas because of terrorism have been rare; the European Union called the Brussels lockdown "unprecedented".[10][24] The extent of the lockdown went well beyond measures taken the last time Belgium declared a level four alert in 2007.[25] One previous example of a citywide lockdown was the one-day lockdown of Boston in April 2013 as police hunted for the Islamist terrorists responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.[26][27][28]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Brussels in lockdown after terror threat level is raised to maximum". The Guardian. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Brussels shutdown as manhunt for Paris fugitive Abdeslam continues". BBC News. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Paris attacks: Brussels on high alert". BBC News. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  4. ^ a b Higgins, Andrew; de Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko (21 November 2015). "Brussels Placed at Highest Alert Level; Subway Is Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b Jamieson, Alastair; Winter, Tom; Akyavas, Aziz; Lavanga, Claudio (21 November 2015). "Brussels on Terror Lockdown Amid Threat of Paris-Style Attack". NBC News. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  6. ^ Lasoen, Kenneth (2017). "Indications and warning in Brussels. Brussels is not Delphi". Journal of Strategic Studies. 40. doi:10.1080/01402390.2017.1288111. S2CID 157685300.
  7. ^ Papirblat, Shlomo (21 November 2015). "Terror Alert Turns Brussels Into a Dead City on War Footing". Haaretz. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ Rogers, Katie (23 November 2015). "Twitter Cats to the Rescue in Brussels Lockdown". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  9. ^ Tutt, Phillip; Pramuk, Jacob (23 November 2015). "Brussels lockdown: Highest alert level maintained". CNBC. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b Burke, Jason (23 November 2015). "Brussels to stay in lockdown 'for at least another week'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  11. ^ Höchste Terrorwarnstufe in Brüssel verlängert , zeit, 23 November 2015
  12. ^ a b "Brussels lockdown: How is city affected by terror threat?". BBC. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  13. ^ Doyle, Ian Wishart; Dara, John Martens (23 November 2015). "Brussels Extends Lockdown as U.S. Issues Terror Alert". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  14. ^ Escritt, Thomas (26 November 2015). "Brussels lockdown ends but manhunt goes on". Reuters. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b Lenzo, Krysia (25 November 2015). "Brussels eases lockdown, but businesses are still suffering". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  16. ^ MARIA CHENG The Associated Press. "Brussels security lockdown hits businesses | The Salt Lake Tribune". Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  17. ^ a b Cerulus, Laurens (30 November 2015). "The cost of the Brussels lockdown: €51.7 million a day". Politico. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  18. ^ a b Rankin, Jennifer (9 January 2016). "Safe to talk? Brussels invites foreigners to call city and chat to locals". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  19. ^ Kiko Itasaka. "Brussels Lockdown: 1,000 Cops Hunt Paris Suspect Salah Abdeslam". NBC News.
  20. ^ a b "Brussels lockdown: Highest alert level maintained". CNBC. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  21. ^ Drozdiak, Natalia; Steinhauser, Gabriele; Brussels, Valentina Pop in; Paris, Noemie Bisserbe in. "Suicide Vest Is New Clue in Terror Manhunt as Brussels Extends Lockdown". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  22. ^ Pop, Valentina; Fairless, Tom (24 November 2015). "Manhunt Expands to Include New Suspected Accomplice in Paris Attacks". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  23. ^ "King Philippe of Belgium's Christmas Eve Speech – English Translation". Gert's Royals. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  24. ^ "European press responds to 'unprecedented' Brussels events". BBC News. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Brussels deserted as terrorist manhunt widens". CNBC. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  26. ^ "This Is What It Looks Like When the Police Shut Down a City". The Atlantic Wire. 19 April 2013. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  27. ^ "A Town Under Siege: Watertown Residents Describe Life Under Lockdown". Time. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  28. ^ "Boston faces lockdown as police hunt for marathon bombing suspect". The Guardian. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
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2015 Brussels lockdown
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