Attackers set fire to Belgium’s national forensic crime laboratory in Brussels early Monday morning, causing severe damage and potentially destroying DNA and other evidence considered crucial to cases involving terrorism, reports the New York Times. No one was injured in the attack, which occurred around 2 a.m. Five people were arrested nearby and held for questioning. Authorities said the arson was an act of terrorism. A government spokeswoman said “several individuals would benefit if elements from their legal cases were destroyed.”
The target of the attack, the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology, handles thousands of cases a year for the federal police and for the Belgian intelligence service, and it is also the repository of the country’s DNA database. On March 22, three suicide bombers attacked the Brussels airport and a subway station in the city, killing 32 people in the worst act of terrorism in Belgium’s history. The bombers were part of a cell of Islamic State fighters who were involved with terrorist attacks in and around Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. Hair samples from Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving participant in the Paris attacks, who was captured in Brussels on March 18 after an intense manhunt, were analyzed at the DNA center.