Police close streets close to the Grand Location in Brussels, exactly where armed police mounted searches in many parts of the city. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Connected Press
Belgian armed police have mounted raids across the nation arresting at least six suspects, after the prime minister announced yet another day of lockdown in the capital more than fears that a Paris-style mass attack could be imminent.
Armed police mounted searches in several parts of the capital on Sunday evening and cordoned off areas close to the main tourist attraction, the Renaissance Grand Location about the town hall. The public broadcaster said there have been also raids close to Liège in the east and Charleroi, south of Brussels. Helicopters could be heard flying over the capital. Police evacuated restaurants in the centre, blocked off roads and called on residents to stay away from windows.
Shortly before midnight on Sunday, the public broadcaster announced at least six arrests and mentioned the operations had concluded.
It does not appear that 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, believed to have played a function in the attacks that killed 130 individuals in Paris nine days ago, was amongst these detained. Other raids in Molenbeek, a borough of Brussels where Abdeslam lived, and in Charleroi, where one particular man was taken into custody. A further operation took spot in Liège, 75 miles (120 km) east of Brussels.
Europe’s de facto capital faces an unprecedented safety lockdown this week soon after Belgian authorities imposed a slew of security-1st measures to prevent a “serious and imminent” terrorist attack.
Handout image displaying Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam seen on a contact for witnesses notice released by French authorities. Photograph: Reuters
Schools, universities and kindergartens will be shut on Monday and the metro, shuttered all weekend, will remain closed, as counter-terrorist forces intensify their search for a network of Islamist militants involved in the Paris attacks.
Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, told a tense press conference on Sunday afternoon: “We nevertheless worry attacks right here like these that occurred in Paris, involving several men and women striking simultaneously in numerous locations,” adding that there have been “indications” that transport systems, commercial centres, buying streets and busy locations had been targets.
“We realise that these measures will complicate economic and expert life … and we are undertaking almost everything we can to return to normality as quickly as achievable,” Michel told reporters.
He spoke right after the government raised the threat level in and about Brussels to four – the highest level – and deployed hundreds of troops to supplement armed local police.
European Union institutions will stay open, despite the fact that with further safety checks, a spokesman said. Officials are anticipated to issue fresh guidance on additional measures, a spokesman for the European commission mentioned late on Sunday.
Officials have also confirmed that nursery schools will be closed on Monday, adding to the chaos that several are predicting for the Belgian capital as the functioning week begins.
The minister of education, Joëlle Milquet, said the closure of all educational institutions could be extended beyond 24 hours. “You do not mess about with the safety of kids and students … This was the only positive measure of protection which we could take,” she told local Television networks.
Shops and restaurants remained shut for the duration of the day on Sunday in Brussels with handful of locals in the streets. Museums and cinemas have been also closed. Prospects for Britain’s Davis Cup tennis clash with Belgium on Friday going ahead appeared slim.
“We’ve never ever had this sort of terrorist threat here before. It’s really unexpected, nearly surreal,” mentioned Alinka Le Comte, 26, a shop assistant in the centre of the city.
Earlier in the day tourists continued to throng sights such as the city’s principal square. “It is reassuring to see the police. We are concerned but not frightened,” stated Emilio Bravo, who had travelled to Brussels from Alicante, Spain.
Nonetheless, the Sunday morning marketplace at the city’s Eurostar terminal Gare du Midi – 1 of the most significant outdoor markets in Europe – was referred to as off. Busy trains from Paris have been subject to further safety measures.
The Belgian interior minister, Jan Jambon, stated “several suspects” tied to the Paris attacks could be at big in the nation, amid speculation that a series of cells may be arranging further strikes in the heart of the European Union. A meeting of safety agencies and senior ministers was held on Sunday afternoon to choose regardless of whether the metro will be permitted to function on Monday morning when the working week begins.
Other measures could be relaxed, or stiffened, based on inputs from counter terrorist agencies, officials stated. “We are clearly dealing with intelligent people who can modify their targets and tactics based on what we do … So all this could take a specific time, that’s obvious,” Koen Geens, the justice minister, told a nearby Tv network.
Numerous in Belgian’s Muslim neighborhood, which numbers about 600,000, worry a backlash as tensions continue.
“We are quite content to see the searches and hear about the arrests,” stated Dekhili Marouan, a 35-year-old catering worker who arrived in Belgium from Tunisia five years ago. “It’s frightening for everybody. I’m worried as well about men and women right here blaming all of us Muslims for this. These people who do this sort of violence, they are not Muslims.”
Belgian officials have rejected widespread criticism of the country’s intelligence solutions and counter-terror efforts. But the news that a Belgian man suspected of undertaking reconnaissancefor the Paris attacks’ targets has been held by Turkish police has underlined the country’s role as a base for these behind the plot.
Belgium reportedly supplies much more foreign fighters to Syria than any other EU country in per capita terms. A lot of have come from Molenbeek, a run-down Brussels borough with a big Muslim neighborhood that has long been a concern.
Speaking to Belgian Tv on Saturday night, Carine Coquelet, the lawyer of 1 of the two guys detained in Brussels final week,
The US embassy in Brussels advised Americans to cancel their weekend plans and remain indoors. The Foreign Workplace delivered comparable tips for the high numbers of Britons in Brussels, which is also residence to the Nato headquarters.
Geens, the justice minister, stated that the Paris attacks had shown that the profile of possible targets had changed.
“It’s no longer synagogues or the Jewish museums or police stations, it is mass gatherings and public locations.”