By correspondent Georges Simenon in Liege, Belgium
The machines at FN Herstal near Liege in Belgium will be busy over Easter this year with the arms manufacturer spreading its manufacturing staff over 3 shifts around the clock.
FN Herstal’s Public Relations speaker Georges Remi announced just after midnight that the company would operate over Easter to manufacture an extra 6000 FN P90 personal defense weapons (PDW) to be carried by military and police personnel while off-duty. Hundreds of off-duty military and police personnel had reacted to the bombings of Brussels (Zaventem) Airport and subway stations by drawing their weapons from stores to bolster the numbers and strength of local police.
Mr Remi said that one of their engineers saw soldiers patrolling his local town and recognized that they would be far more effective in that environment, armed with the PDW that is universally recognized as the best weapon against terrorists. The PDW is more compact than an assault rifle, has larger magazine capacity and fires ammunition that minimises collateral damage, yet still penetrates body armour at a range of 200 metres. The board of management took the observation to heart and decided that all serving military and police would be offered a 1-Euro/month lease on a P90 for protecting themselves and their community when not on official duty.
Factory workers at FN had been asked on Thursday to work just one shift over the holiday break, but many staff volunteered to work every day but Good Friday, after the reason for extra production days became clear. While the bulk of manufacturing will be completed on the night of Easter Sunday to Monday, distribution of weapons cannot start until office hours on Tuesday.
Meanwhile eligible service personnel can register to collect their P90 through Police stations. Provincial Police can check the eligibility of applicants and to issue the necessary permits within minutes; around the clock, every day of the year.
One soldier calling himself “Jos” is patrolling the streets of his own town, accompanied by one Police constable and two others in “tactical” body armour. Jos, who would otherwise be at home trying to add to his young family over Easter, said that many of his brothers in arms were also volunteering to help local Police to secure the local streets. While provincial police had reacted to the situation as well as they could, they lacked boots on the ground and often the technical means to deal with terrorists. Meanwhile, the national government was catatonic; unable to respond sensibly to the situation which Jos described as “SNAFU”.
The Belgian Ministry of Defence has been asked to comment on this initiative by FN Herstal and individual service personnel but their offices are closed until 10 a.m. on Tuesday.