Nearly 60,000 celebrate Belgian national day in Brussels

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Brussels, July 22 (IANS) An estimated 60,000 people joined festivities here to celebrate Belgium’s national day on Thursday, amid reinforced security following the Nice terror attack.

Some 800 police officers were mobilised for the day-long celebration, 240 more than initially planned, La Libre Belgique newspaper reported and 1,176 soldiers were involved in the traditional military parade, Xinhua reported.

Roads were closed, parked vehicles were towed away and police checkpoints set up. Attendees at the party in Brussels’ royal park had their bags checked on arrival.

Police had requested extra resources to ensure security after last Thursday’s attack in Nice, where a man drove a lorry at high speed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 and injuring hundreds of others.

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Ils Van de Keere, spokeswoman for the Brussels-Capital police force, said festivities had passed without any major incident, and the extra security measures appeared to have not discouraged people from attending.

The police force posted on social media that an estimated 60,000 participants were attendance.

The July 21 celebrations began with the traditional Te Deum ceremony at Brussels cathedral, attended by Belgian King Philippe, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, among 500 other dignitaries.

Festivities were organised all day long in Brussels central park, outside the Royal Palace and surrounding roads.

Later in the evening, thousands are expected to sit around communal dining tables for a traditional Belgian dinner of mussels and fries. The celebrations culminate in a fireworks display at night.

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