Cops and soldiers had ‘orgy’ at Brussels police station while city was on terror alert: newspaper

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PARIS — In the six weeks since the Paris terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies in Brussels, where most of the attackers lived or had ties, have been denounced as slow, unresponsive, disorganized and even incompetent.

To this list of woes, another was added on Wednesday: Officials are investigating accounts of an alcohol-fuelled “orgy” at a police station one night last month while Brussels, the Belgian capital, was nearly shut down over fears of a copycat terrorist attack.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels-West police agency, one of six police departments that patrol the city, confirmed on Wednesday that it had begun an internal investigation after an article was published Tuesday in La Dernière Heure, a local newspaper.

Nicolas Maeterlinck . AFP, Getty Images

Nicolas Maeterlinck . AFP, Getty Images Belgian troops patrol at the Royal Galleries of Saint-Hubert in Brussels on November 22, 2015

The police agency is responsible for Molenbeek, the working-class neighbourhood in Brussels that was home to several of the men involved in the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed.

According to La Dernière Heure, the orgy occurred sometime between Nov. 21, when the federal government’s crisis center raised the alert level for the Brussels region to 4, the highest, and Nov. 26, when the alert level was reduced to 3.

Soldiers had been sent to Brussels to help patrol the city, which was paralyzed with fear; schools, government offices, markets and the public transit network were all shut down.

About 20 soldiers from an infantry unit known as the Ardennes Battalion of Hunters were bivouacked at a police station in Ganshoren, a neighbourhood north of Molenbeek. According to the newspaper, after the police station closed for the night at 10 p.m., two policewomen were invited upstairs to the floor where the soldiers were sleeping and had sex with eight of them.

The newspaper said it had contacted a police commander, Johan De Becker, who did not know about the reports of an orgy but agreed that it would be “serious” if proved. On Wednesday, police officials confirmed that an investigation had begun.

“I cannot give more information on the internal investigation, because it is ongoing and because investigations into the Brussels police force are highly complicated,” the Brussels-West police spokeswoman said in a phone interview. “Right now, we don’t know the extent of the investigation yet. Maybe officers from other zones are implicated, and I don’t want to set off an internal fight by commenting on police officers from other zones. Internal investigations into the Brussels police are, as a rule, highly complicated and very sensitive.”

The fractured nature of policing in Brussels has been a target of intense criticism since the Paris attacks. Brussels, while officially bilingual, is a largely French-speaking city. However, it is in the country’s Flemish-speaking region, which has gained wealth and clout in recent decades relative to Wallonia, the French-speaking region to the south. (The country also has a tiny German-speaking minority in the southeast.)

Power in Belgium is delicately distributed along regional and linguistic lines, making political oversight difficult, not to mention basic intelligence-sharing.

In addition to the six local police agencies, Brussels has a federal police service, two intelligence services — one military, one civilian — and a terrorism threat assessment unit whose chief, exhausted and demoralized, resigned over the summer but remains on the job.

All these people have been working closely together for weeks now, often doing long hours. We have developed a very good working relationship with the army

The idea of merging the six local agencies into one has been floated over the years, but has run into opposition among the mayors of the 19 boroughs that make up Brussels, who share police oversight powers on a rotating basis.

Ilse Van de Keere, the police commissioner for Brussels-Capital — the police agency that oversees the city’s core, including its central square, the Grand Place or Grote Markt — said in a phone interview that she would “absolutely not comment about anything that happened on another territory,” referring to the adjacent Brussels-West district.

Asked about the rumours, Van de Keere said, “We all read the newspapers, just like anyone else, and are aware of this story about an orgy between police officers and army soldiers.”

Van de Keere said that local and federal police cooperation had been “excellent” in recent weeks, and that the reports of the orgy had not affected their work.

“All these people have been working closely together for weeks now, often doing long hours,” she said. “We have developed a very good working relationship with the army.”

On Tuesday, the authorities in Belgium charged two men with plotting a terrorist attack in central Brussels on New Year’s Eve. They are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning. The City Council was scheduled to meet Wednesday night to decide whether Brussels’s traditional fireworks show, at the Place de Brouckère, a short distance north of the Grand Place, would be held.

31/12/2015 09:33  By: National Post

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