Monday, November 23, 2015

Brussels kept on High Alert Fearing Paris Like Attack Brussels kept on High Alert Fearing Paris Like Attack.

Brussels Remains on Highest Alert Level as Manhunts Expand

Terrorism Raids in Belgium Yield 16 Arrests

BRUSSELS — After a dramatic security sweep late Sunday marked by the deployment of soldiers in the historic center of the Belgian capital, the authorities here announced early Monday that 16 people had been arrested in a joint police and military operation to try to head off what the prime minister earlier described as a “serious and imminent” threat of a Paris-style terrorist assault.


Belgian security forces conducted 19 raids in the Brussels region on Sunday and three in the southern town of Charleroi, Eric Van der Sijpt, a magistrate and spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said at a late-night news conference. Backed by heavily armed soldiers, the police also sealed off at least two areas of central Brussels, including streets around the city’s medieval central square, the Grand Place, a major tourist attraction.

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Belgian soldiers patrolled a nearly deserted street on Saturday in central Brussels, after the government raised the country’s threat level to its highest.Brussels Placed at Highest Alert Level; Subway Is ClosedNOV. 21, 2015

French soldiers on Friday near the National Library of France in Paris.Third Body Is Found in Rubble of Police Raid Near ParisNOV. 20, 2015

Crowds gather to light candles at the center of the Place de la République in Paris.Finding Hope in the Vigils of Paris: A Virtual Reality FilmNOV. 20, 2015

The police guarded a Paris hotel where President François Hollande spoke on Thursday. France has stepped up use of its emergency powers since Friday’s attacks.As France and Belgium Strengthen Security, a Classic Debate ArisesNOV. 19, 2015

But the main target of the clampdown, Salah Abdeslam, suspected to be one of the gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, was not among those arrested, Mr. Van der Sijpt said. The raids also uncovered no weapons or explosives, he added.


A Belgian soldier stood guard at the Grand Place Central Square in Brussels on Sunday. Credit Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Belgian news media reported Sunday that Mr. Abdeslam, a resident of the Brussels borough of Molenbeek whose brother was a suicide bomber in Paris, had been seen in the eastern city of Liège but then vanished again. Mr. Van der Sijpt declined to take questions on that or other aspects of the Belgian investigation into the links between the Paris attacks and Belgium.

He said several shots were fired by the police in Molenbeek late Sunday when, during a raid on a snack bar, a car drove toward officers. One person was wounded, he added.

Sunday’s raids and show of force in the center of Brussels escalated what had been mostly low-key precautions into a highly visible and often jittery military-style operation in a city usually associated with the somnolent activity of the European Union.

The operation, the biggest in the Belgian capital since the Paris attack, began shortly after a government meeting on the crisis and a decision to maintain for a second day the highest possible alert level in Brussels.


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“We fear an attack similar to the one in Paris,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said Sunday at a news conference. “A number of individuals could launch an attack on several locations in Brussels simultaneously.” He spoke amid a growing mood of crisis as the authorities extended the hunt for Mr. Abdeslam, believed to be the only known survivor from three terrorist squads that attacked Paris, and for a widening number of suspects in Belgium linked to it.

Police officers and soldiers in camouflage blocked roads around the central headquarters of the Brussels police, near the Grand Place, and around the offices of the federal police.

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How Belgium Became Home to Recent Terror Plots

Several recent terrorism cases in Europe have had some connection to Belgium.

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