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Police step up security for Belgian justice minister amid threats

Belgium's Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (R) is shown at a European Union event in Prague on July 12. Security around the minister has been tightened after threats from organized criminals. File Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE
Belgium's Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (R) is shown at a European Union event in Prague on July 12. Security around the minister has been tightened after threats from organized criminals. File Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Belgium's federal police have stepped up security around the country's justice minister after recent threats against him, officials confirmed Saturday.

Vincent Van Quickenborne's office is also canceling certain events the justice minister was scheduled to take part in next week after threats issued by drug traffickers.

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A car containing firearms and bottles of gasoline was found near Quickenborne's home earlier in the week, which Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo condemned on Saturday as "totally unacceptable."

The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office "has been informed during the last week of a possible threat (to) Minister of Justice, Mr. Vincent Van Quickenborne. An investigation was immediately opened and entrusted to an investigating judge of the judicial district of West Flanders," authorities said in a statement.

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"The people behind this are achieving the opposite of what they are aiming for," Van Quickenborne said Saturday. "We will continue to fight organized crime, with more manpower and resources than before."

Three people were arrested overnight in the Netherlands, the prosecutor's office confirmed, requesting they be transferred to Belgium.

The arrests came as the Belgian government is attempting to crack down on organized crime in the country.

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Earlier this month it released a plan to combat gangs, including boosting the police force, customs and the judiciary, as well as giving local authorities more power to act.

The bustling international port city of Antwerp has dealt with increased violence caused by warring drug traffickers. Ninety tons of cocaine were seized in the city in 2021.

"We must stand together. We are investing more resources and giving more powers to local authorities. Good cooperation is also the key," De Croo told EURACTIV earlier this month.

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