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From Belgium with blunders: Spies Disarmed After Drunken Shooting

Brussels: The battered reputation of Belgium's security forces has suffered a new blow with the revelation that its internal spy service has disarmed almost all its field agents after one drunkenly tried to shoot a colleague in the head.

The civilian agents of the Surete de l'Etat, the equivalent of ASIO, are already among the most powerless intelligence operatives in the Western world, with no right even to tap telephones.

Now they have had their pistols confiscated on the orders of their general administrator, Koen Dassen, a Belgian newspaper reported on Monday. A working group has been established to work out who is armed and why, after Mr Dassen realised controls were "worse than approximate".

Saar Vanderplaetsen, a spokeswoman for the Minister for Justice, Laurette Onkelinx, confirmed that Surete agents had had to hand in their weapons, pending new regulations.

She was unable to confirm reports that officers had gone on a virtual work-to-rule since being disarmed, including avoidance of risky missions.

The exact numbers and missions of Surete agents are kept confidential.

Ms Vanderplaetsen said: "For the moment, everybody has had to hand in their guns because we had this incident, in October or November last year, during which an agent shot at another."

Mrs Onkelinx was reportedly distressed that she only learnt of the shooting, in which no one was hurt, from the press four months after it took place.

The agent suspected of firing his gun was said to be an alcoholic with a dependency on anti-depressants.

Telegraph, London

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