Credit Laurent Dubrule/European Pressphoto Agency
BRUSSELS â?? The capital of Belgium entered the third day of a siegelike lockdown on Monday: Schools, buying malls, public transit and food markets remained closed, and hotels and bars have been desolate, as the total number of arrests in a sweeping counterterrorism operation rose to 21.
The authorities searched 5 properties in the Brussels area and two in the LiÃ¨ge area overnight, seized 26,000 euros, or about $ 27,600, and arrested five folks, in addition to the 16 who had been detained on Sunday, according to Eric Van der Sijpt, a magistrate and a spokesman for the federal prosecutorâ??s workplace.
But a single of the chief targets of the raids â?? Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman who is believed to have taken portion in the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 â?? remained at massive. A BMW that was pulled more than on Sunday night about LiÃ¨ge, which was seized upon by some on the Net, has â??no link at all with the ongoing operation,â? Mr. Van der Sijpt said in a statement.
Some of the rhythms of everyday life resumed on Monday, the first weekday because the authorities place the Brussels area on the highest level of alert â?? Level four â?? out of fear of a â??serious and imminentâ? attack like the one particular in Paris. At least 4 of the attackers in Paris had lived in Belgium, which includes Mr. Abdeslam and the suspected organizer, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid outdoors Paris last week.
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Officials Discuss Raids in Brussels
In Brussels, safety was tightened around the buildings that house the European Commission, although NATO advised some personnel to function from house. The central square, identified as the Grand Place or the Grote Markt, generally bustling with shoppers preparing for Christmas, was fairly empty. Several huge shops were closed.
The authorities urged citizens not to discuss police operations on Twitter for fear of tipping off the suspects they were in search of. A lot of Belgians complied by posting pictures of cats with the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown.
The level of anxiety was so high that the authorities felt compelled to remind men and women that â??you can leave your residence of course (in Brussels, too),â? whilst adding that â??we recommend you keep away from unnecessary travel to busy places and comply with any possible safety verify.â?
These who did venture out of their residences strolled in sunny weather on thoroughfares like the Boulevard Anspach, in front of the old stock exchange, just a few streets away from the scene of an intensive raid the prior evening. They stated they felt protected seeing so numerous police officers and soldiers in the streets.
â??Itâ??s a very strange atmosphere,â? said Guy Egerickx, 60, a retiree, who came out to shop. â??Itâ??s one thing that Iâ??ve never ever knowledgeable before.â?
Mukando Fortuna, 20, said the police presence was reassuring. â??Iâ??m usually stopped and searched by the police, which actually irritates me,â? he stated, wearing hip sunglasses and chatting with a group of close friends.
â??But this time, they havenâ??t. Theyâ??re cool,â? he said. â??Weâ??re not scared because of a group of idiots.â?
Abdel Messaoudi, who manages a Pizza Hut, said that revenues have fallen at least 75 % because Saturday due to the fact clientele have stayed away. He said he told his staff not to bother to come to work on Monday since the subway was not operating.
â??Iâ??ve never, ever observed Brussels this quiet,â? he said, taking a cigarette break. Generally the city is teeming with vacationers and workers in this element of the city, he stated, but the size of crowds has shrunk by at least two-thirds.
A employees member at an upscale Novotel said that the hotel has been dealing with â??cancellations one soon after the other.â? The employee, who asked not to be named since he was not permitted to speak to the news media, said that far more than half of the hotelâ??s guests canceled at the last minute. â??Weâ??ve never ever observed something like it,â? the employee mentioned, adding that the hotel is practically usually full.
In France, the countryâ??s finance minister, Michel Sapin, on Monday announced measures to restrict access to financing for folks who are planning or carrying out terrorist attacks.
Mr. Sapin mentioned that France would tighten guidelines for the use of prepaid bank cards, which can be utilised anonymously below certain thresholds, by early subsequent year.
Current rules do not demand ID checks for the use of nonrechargeable prepaid bank cards for sums under â?¬250, or for the use of rechargeable cards for sums below â?¬2,500 more than a year.
Prepaid cards were utilised by the attackers who killed 130 folks in Paris and neighboring St.-Denis on the evening of Nov. 13, Mr. Sapin stated, but he did not elaborate on where or how the cards had been utilized.
Mr. Sapin also stated that French authorities combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism would be offered direct access to the police database of wanted or suspected individuals. He added that the government would introduce legislation to expand the authoritiesâ?? capability to freeze the financial assets of terrorism suspects to include cars and genuine estate.