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Anthrax Scare at Brussels Mosque After Suspicious White Powder Forces Evacuation

The discovery of several envelopes containing a white powder feared to be anthrax prompted the evacuation of a major mosque in Brussels near the EU headquarters.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 26 2015, 2:55pm

Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA

A major mosque in Brussels near the European Union headquarters was evacuated on Thursday after the discovery of what firefighters said were "several envelopes" containing an unidentified white powder feared to be anthrax.

Fire crews and decontamination teams responded to the Great Mosque of Brussels, the city's oldest mosque and the seat ofthe Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium. The building is located in the center of the Belgian capital about 200 yards from the European Commission.

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According to reports from local media on the scene, two rooms of the mosque were sealed off, and nine worshipers and two police officers were undergoing decontamination treatment. None of the 11 people were displaying symptoms of anthrax exposure.

A Reuters reporter said there were about a dozen emergency vehicles at the mosque. A fire service spokeswoman said somebody called from the mosque and said they believed they had found anthrax powder, prompting the deployment of specialist crews. There was no immediate word on what the substance was.

Since the terror attacks in Paris attacks on November 13 by French and Belgian militants linked to the Islamic State, there have been reports of threats against mosques used by Belgium's half million Muslims, among them some from an unknown group calling itself Christian State.

Elsewhere in Belgium on Thursday, federal police conducted a raid in Sambreville, a small town south of Brussels linked to fears of a militant attack. According to public broadcaster RTBF, which cited information from federal prosecutors, police were looking for weapons and explosives.

Belgian authorities have said they fear militants are planning a Paris-style attack. Police have been hunting for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Belgian national suspected of participating in the attack. Abdeslam's brother Brahim was a suicide bomber in the attacks, which killed 130 people.

Related: Deserted Brussels Faces Fourth Consecutive Day Of Terror Alert Lockdown 

Police arrested more than two dozen people over the past 13 days while hunting for Selah, but he has so far evaded capture. All but five of the detainees have since been released.

Police have put out an international arrest warrant for Mohamed Abrini, 30, who was filmed driving a car with Abdeslam in northern France two days before the attacks. Belgian media said on Wednesday that Abrini had fought in Syria and came from the same Brussels borough as the Abdeslam brothers and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected planner killed last week in a police raid north of Paris.

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