Bomb spotters flanked by troops with assault rifles part of extraordinary security following the Dortmund bus bomb attack
Manchester United stars set off for a powder keg clash in Europe’s terror capital amid extraordinary security last night following the Dortmund bus bomb attack.
Bomb spotters flanked by troops with assault rifles crawled underneath the black team bus minutes before it set off from their Brussels hotel for the Europa League tie against Anderlecht.
Anti-terror cops ordered a huge clampdown in the jihadi hotbed city two days after Borussia Dortmund’s bus was targeted in a triple bomb assault before a Champions League tie.
Letters left at the scene warned sportsmen and celebrities from “crusader nations” had been put on an Islamic State “death list.”
Cops in Brussels were on maximum alert last night after a car with Belgian registration plates was spotted near the scene of Tuesday’s attack near the Dortmund team’s hotel.
United’s quarter final first leg was played just two miles from the Islamist-infested Molenbeek suburb from where IS cells launched the Paris and Brussels attacks which killed 162 people.
Stars including Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared calm as they left their five-star Brussels hostelry, “The Hotel” shortly before 7pm local time last night.
But armed police, camouflage-geared troops with assault rifles and plain-clothed security staff were taking no chances.
Black screens were set up to shield the players from public view and a silver decoy bus set off before their black limousine coach flanked by police vehicles with sirens blaring.
Police had carefully scoured the three-mile route to Anderlect’s 26,000-seat Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, checking for ambush weak spots for bombs and booby traps.
United arrived safely after a 20 minute journey through the streets of the Belgian capital.
Fans in the stadium were barred from taking any bags inside the venue.
Extra precautions were ordered in the wake of the Dortmund attack, in which three remote-controlled pipe bombs blasted the coach after being hidden behind a hedge.
Brussels police spokeswoman Marie Verbeke said last night: “After the Dortmund bus attack we have re-evaluated the risk assessment and adjusted it.
“We will not comment on what this entails as we do not want to give away this information to the public.”
Police commanders – who deployed extra officers, troops, helicopters and explosive-sniffer dogs – declared the match “high risk” after the attack in neighbouring Germany.
But United fans appeared oblivious to the threat as they danced and chanted in the sunshine, and even set off flares and loud thunderflashes which alarmed passers-by.
The Federal Prosecutor’s office in Germany said yesterday there was no evidence to link an arrested suspect named as 26-year-old Iraqi Abdul Beset A with the Dortmund attack.
But he was said to be an active IS supporter and ringleader and authorities will apply to extend his custody for further questioning.
Another IS suspect was still being hunted last night after his flat was raided.
Dortmund’s Spanish defender Marc Bartra was recovering from a hand injury and shrapnel wounds suffered in the blast.
Around 2,000 Manchester United fans flooded into Brussels yesterday and partied noisily outside the city’s O’Reilly’s Irish bar before kick-off. No incidents were reported.