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Explosion outside Brussels criminology institute; none injured

Car rams through 3 fences before triggering blast, local media reports; prosecutor says incident is criminal, not terror

Illustrative. A police officer stands guard at the entrance of Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after at least 13 people have been killed by two explosions in the departure hall.   (AFP / Belga / FILIP DE SMET / Belgium OUT)
Illustrative. A police officer stands guard at the entrance of Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after at least 13 people have been killed by two explosions in the departure hall. (AFP / Belga / FILIP DE SMET / Belgium OUT)

An explosion rocked a criminology institute in the Belgian capital early Monday morning, causing no injuries, local media reported.

Just before 3 a.m. local time, a car driven by an as yet unknown number of assailants rammed through three gates of the building, followed by an explosion and a fire at the facility, according to local broadcaster RTL.

The Brussels prosecutor’s office indicated that the incident was likely not terrorism, but rather a case of arson.

“It’s probably not terrorism. It’s a criminal act,” said spokesperson Ine Van Wymersch.

Though local media initially reported the blast was caused by an explosive device, it was not immediately clear if the explosion caused the fire or if the fire sparked the explosion.

The prosecutor’s office “cannot confirm that there was any bomb,” Van Wymersch said.

Dozens of firefighters were called to put out a fire in one of the institute’s laboratories, but no one was injured as the building was empty at the time.

Residents of the Neder-Over-Hembeek neighborhood in northern Brussels reported seeing a large pillar of smoke coming out of the building, RTL reported.

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There were no initial indications of who was responsible for the bombing or what the motivations behind it were.

While Belgium and Brussels in particular have been on high alert for terror attacks following the back-to-back bombings of the Brussels Airport and a local metro station earlier this year, as the target of Monday morning’s bombing was a criminology institute used by police and the Belgian Justice Ministry, this attack may have been criminal in nature, and not related to terrorism.

The March 22 attack on the airport and subway by the Islamic State terrorist group killed 32 people and left many more injured.

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