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Brussels Crime Lab Set Alight in Apparent Bid to Destroy Evidence: Belgium Prosecutors

BRUSSELS — Attackers rammed a car through the gates of Belgium's crime institute early Monday and set fire to a lab containing crime-scene samples in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence, Brussels prosecutors said.

As the blaze in the north Brussels suburb erupted, residents heard at least one explosion and Belgian media reported a bomb attack, but investigators said the noise was probably materials going up in flames.

Belgium fire
A crane lifts the wreckage of the car used to ram into Belgium's crime institute Monday. THIERRY ROGE / AFP - Getty Images

Belgium has been on high alert since coordinated suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and subway on March 22 killed 32 people, and security forces remain on standby for another attack.

Prosecutors said five people were detained and taken in for questioning after the incident, which happened at about 2 a.m. Monday (8 p.m. ET Sunday) in Neder-Over-Heembeek. No one was injured.

"It's probably not terrorism. It's a criminal act," said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office. "I cannot confirm that there was any bomb."

The forensic facility assists Belgium's justice authorities in carrying out their investigations and the lab contains DNA samples found at crime scenes.

"The location was not chosen randomly," Van Wymersch said. She said the lab contains "sensitive information" being used in ongoing investigations.

The fire and damage were hampering the efforts of investigators to enter the scene, and she said it would take some time for them establish exactly what had been destroyed.

"The laboratory does thousands of analyses each year, so we don't know what damage has been done yet," Van Wymersch told reporters. "It is obvious that several individuals would have an interest in making elements in their justice file disappear."