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Gibraltar reviews security and stands with Brussels

Gibraltar paid tribute the victims of the Brussels attacks yesterday, with flags flying at half-mast on official buildings and a minute’s silence held at midday in Convent Place.

The tribute came as security chiefs here reviewed the threat level and urged the community to remain ‘alert but not alarmed’ to any possible threat.

The Gibraltar Security Council assessed the situation in the wake of attacks that left 34 dead and scores injured in Brussels.

The GSC maintained the threat level in Gibraltar at ‘substantial’, the third-highest grading in a five-step list that means an attack is “a strong possibility”.

It stressed, however, that there was no specific threat to Gibraltar and that the current threat level, which was first raised to substantial in January last year, echoed similar measures across Europe.

The Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Davis, said the thoughts of the people of Gibraltar were with the people of Brussels. 

“While there is no specific threat to Gibraltar, it is important that we all remain alert but not alarmed,” Lt Gen Davis, who chairs the GSC, said in a statement.

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He urged the community to report anything suspicious to the police and said the GSC would continue to monitor the situation and review the threat level on a regular basis.

Yesterday Lt Gen Davis and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo led their respective teams in a minute silence in Convent Place.

Mr Picardo stood alongside deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia and staff from No 6 Convent Place. Lt Gen Davis was flanked by deputy Governor Alison Macmillan and Commander British Forces Commodore Ian mcghie, as well as Convent staff.

The Belgian tricolour flew at half-mast alongside the Gibraltar flag and the Union Jack above No 6 Convent Place.

Last night, the Moorish castle was lit up in the Belgian colours too and a minute’s silence was held ahead of the football match between Gibraltar and Lichtenstein, with players wearing black armbands.

Belgians began three days of mourning after 34 people were killed and 270 others injured in the Brussels airport and Metro bombings.

The country remained on high alert as authorities hunted for one of the suspected attackers seen on surveillance video with two others who blew themselves up.

Several people who may be linked to the attacks were still on the loose and the country's threat alert remained at its highest level, meaning there was danger of an imminent attack, said Paul Van Tigchelt, head of Belgium's terrorism threat body.

As government offices, schools and residents held a moment of silence on Wednesday morning to honour the dead, the mood was defiance mixed with anxiety that others involved in the attacks are still at large.

Belgium's federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw identified two of the Brussels attackers as brothers - Brahim El Bakraoui, a suicide bomber at the airport, and Khalid El Bakraoui, who targeted the Metro.

Investigators raided the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek after the attacks and found a computer in a bin on the street including a note from Brahim El Bakraoui saying he felt increasingly unsafe and feared landing in prison.

A taxi driver who took Brahim El Bakraoui and two others to the airport led investigators to an apartment where they found 15 kilograms of TATP explosives, along with nails and other materials used to make bombs, Mr Van Leeuw said.

He said authorities do not know the identities of two other people pictured with El Bakraoui in a surveillance photo from the airport that police are circulating.

Two were suicide bombers, the prosecutor said. The other was a man in a white jacket and black cap who fled before the bombs went off, leaving behind a bag full of explosives. That bag later blew up, but no one was injured.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons: "We face a common terrorist threat and I'm sure the whole House will join me in expressing our full solidarity with the people of Belgium following these terrible attacks."

The UK's police and security services were doing "everything they can" to support the Belgian investigation, he said.

Joining other world leaders in expressing their horror in the aftermath of the attacks, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh said they were "deeply shocked and saddened".

Speaking at a policing conference in London, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Our message is simple: we stand together against the terrorists and they will not win."

Transport terminals across the UK and Europe have boosted security in the wake of the atrocities, and Belgium's main airport is to remain closed until at least Thursday night.

The GSC recommends that people be aware of the advice in the RGP Stay Safe document which can be found on the RGP website.