Entries in Belgium (7)


More than $50M of Diamonds Stolen from Plane in Belgium

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS) -- In a brazen heist right out of the movies, thieves drove onto Belgium's airport tarmac on Monday night and stole more than $50 million of diamonds from a plane without firing a single shot.

It took them fewer than five minutes to cut through an airport fence, drive up to a Helvetic jet in cars with flashing lights, hold up the pilot and security officials on the plane, and take 120 packages full of rough and cut stones, according to the Belgium prosecutor's office.  The men carried submachine guns and were dressed in police uniforms.

"They forced open the fence between two construction sites, they made a hole, they went on the tarmac and they escaped through the same hole in the fence," the prosecutor's spokeswoman, Ine Vanwymersch, told reporters in Belgium.

The heist is one of the largest thefts in history and will raise serious questions about whether the thieves were tipped off to the location of the jewels by an insider, and how they could so easily drive onto the tarmac in a major European capital.

"It's quite remarkable that you can even get to the tarmac in [Brussels airport], with two vehicles and eight armed people," Caroline De Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp Diamond Centre, which promotes the Belgian diamond business, told Belgian TV.  "That it's possible to get the goods out of the aircraft.  This is unacceptable."

Police say they are still searching for clues.  They found a burned out car -- presumably one of the vehicles used in the theft -- but have announced no other leads.

Belgium is one of the world's leading diamond centers and hasn't suffered as serious a theft as this since 2003, when thieves stole approximately $100 million of stones, jewels and gold from the Diamond Centre itself in Antwerp.  Local media report that security has been beefed up since that attack, but on Tuesday, the airport could not explain why it was so vulnerable.

"We abide by the most stringent rules," airport spokesman Jan Van Der Crujsse told reporters.

Usually, transporting valuables on a plane is seen as safer than using cars or trucks, since a plane is always kept within the confines of an airport.

The plane, bound for Zurich and operated by Swiss airlines, was ready to leave when the robbery occurred.  It was subsequently cancelled, the airline said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Blaming GPS, Belgian Woman Mistakenly Drives 900 Miles Instead of 90

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Belgian woman who set off on a 90-mile trip to pick up a friend at a Brussels train station accidentally drove to Croatia -- some 900 miles from her home.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Sabine Moreau, 67, was to drive north of her home in Hainault Erquelinnes to reach Brussels, but her GPS told her to drive south.  And drive she did -- for two days. 

Moreau slept by the side of the road twice, and even got into a minor car accident along the way.  Her journey only ended when she realized she'd reached Zagreb, Croatia.

Moreau -- whose grown son called the cops in a fruitless attempt to try to find her -- told the paper, "I was distracted, so I kept driving.  I saw all kinds of traffic signs, first in French, then German and finally in Croatian, but I kept driving...Suddenly I appeared in Zagreb and I realized I wasn't in Belgium anymore."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Brussels Plans to Fine Offensive Language

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Brussels, Belgium, wants everyone to be nice. And if not, it’s going to cost you.

“Any form of insult is from now on [is] punishable, whether it be racist, homophobic or otherwise,” Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans’ spokesperson quoted him as saying, according to the Telegraph.

Fines will range between 75 and 250 euros for using offensive language or sexually harassing someone in public, officials said.

Mayor Thielemans said the new fines encourage officers to take action over offensive public behavior that previously went ignored because it was never prosecuted. Thielemans said police officers “had little incentive to take any action over such incidents.”

In June, Middleborough, Mass., passed a measure that slaps people caught cursing in public with a $20 fine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Belgian Hikers Pulled by Helicopter from Icelandic Glacier

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Two Belgian tourists attempting to climb the largest glacier in Europe were saved from possible freezing deaths in a dramatic helicopter rescue Saturday night after conditions atop Iceleand’s Vatnajökull glacier became unbearable.

One of the men was barely conscious when the Icelandic Coast Guard reached the two on the snow cap’s highest peak. The men, said to be experienced hikers, had sent up an emergency signal around 10 p.m. when wind gusts picked up and temperatures dropped to around -35 Celsius with the wind factor, according to the Iceland Review.

The men had gotten into trouble when their tent ripped, exposing them to the blizzard conditions.  The elements were so severe that even the rescuers suffered minor frostbite to their faces, Iceland Review reports.

The dramatic rescue, which the lead rescuer described as like a “clip from a movie,” was captured by a night vision camera.  Rescuers used night vision goggles to locate the two men, and then one rescuer was lowered down from the helicopter to pull the two men back up.

The hikers were said to be in good condition when they were found, apart from being cold.  The unconscious man regained full consciousness once he was in the helicopter, according to Iceland Review, which also reported that the helicopter landed safely in the town of Hornafjorour around 2 a.m.  No word was given on the climbers’ current condition.

Coast Guard officials credited the two men’s preparedness with saving their lives, reporting that the climbers had borrowed the emergency transmitter they ultimately used to call authorities from the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue before they left on their journey.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Belgium Shooting: Death Toll Climbs as Another Body Is Found

MICHEL KRAKOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(LIEGE, Belgium) -- Belgians remain in a state of shock after a lone attacker went on a violent rampage in the eastern city of Liege Tuesday, leaving at least five people dead and more than 100 others wounded.

Authorities identified the assailant as 33-year-old Nordine Amrani, who also died during the attack which occurred as people went about their holiday shopping in a crowded square.

According to police, Amrani perched himself atop the roof of a building and both fired weapons and hurled grenades at the helpless pedestrians below. At least three children were killed in the attack.

On Wednesday, police reported that the body of Amrani's female house cleaner was found in a shed on his property, presumably another one of his victims.

Investigators don't know what motivated Amrani to go on his killing spree. He had previously been in prison on drug and gun racketeering charges and was said to have cultivated thousands of marijuana plants.

It's believed that Amrani was out on conditional parole and was supposed to have shown up for a meeting with police Tuesday about a suspected rape.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Belgium Shooting, Grenade Attack Leaves 4 Dead, Dozens Wounded

MICHEL KRAKOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(LIEGE, Belgium) -- A gunman opened fire in a busy district in the Belgium city of Liege on Tuesday, killing at least four and injuring another 75, police said.

The attacker tossed grenades into a crowded square, BBC News reported, before killing himself.

The suspect -- reportedly a 33-year-old man named Nordine Amrani -- was well known to local police. Authorities said that the man had served time in jail for drug and weapons possession.

"There are no words to describe this tragedy," Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said, according to the BBC.

"The whole country shares the pain of the families affected. We share the shock of the population."

A motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Belgium Festival Canceled After Five Are Killed in Stage Collapse

A view taken on August 19, 2011 of the damages at the site of the Belgian outdoor rock festival "Pukkelpop", after two stages collapsed the day before during a violent storm. MARCO DE SWART/AFP/Getty Images(HASSELT, Belgium) -- Violent winds, rain and hail that brought down three stages, uprooted trees and knocked down various metal structures, left five people dead and more than 75 injured on Thursday at the sold-out Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium, is reporting.

On Friday, producers of the festival canceled the rest of the weekend’s events posting a message on the event’s official website saying: “Pukkelpop is in deep mourning.  We truly sympathize with the families and friends of the victims.  We have struggled with the decision to continue the festival.  Therefore we have decided to cancel Pukkelpop 2011.  What has happened is very exceptional and could not have been predicted.  We are deeply moved by all the spontaneous support the festival goers and the organization have received.  We call on all Pukkelpoppers to return home calmly.  Extra buses and trains have been organized to bring everybody home.”

Bands 30 Seconds to Mars and Foo Fighters -- who were set to perform at the festival -- took to their Twitter accounts to weigh in on the events and offer their condolences to victims.  The epidemic of stage collapses at festivals this summer has had many in the industry calling for stronger regulations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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