Two suspected of plotting attacks arrested in Belgium

December 30, 2015 9:58 am

 Police officers patrol the Grand Place in central Brussels. Photo / AP

Two people have been arrested in on suspicion of planning
attacks in Brussels during the holidays, the federal prosecutor’s office
said Tuesday.
The investigation revealed “the threat of serious
attacks that would target several emblematic places in Brussels and be
committed during the end-of-year holidays,” the prosecutor’s office
said.

A source close to the investigation said the Belgian capital’s
main square, thronged this time of year with holiday shoppers and
strollers, was one of the suspected targets.
“On the Grand Place,
there are a lot of people, as well as soldiers and police who are
patrolling, as well as a police station nearby,” said the source, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by the
judge conducting the investigation to make public statements.
The
two suspects, who the source said were male, were arrested following
searches Sunday and Monday in the Brussels area, the Liege region and
Flemish Brabant, the prosecutor’s office said. It did not disclose their
names or further information about them.
One was charged with
acting as the leader and recruiter of a terrorist group planning to
commit terrorist offenses, the other with participating in a terrorist
group’s activities as a principal actor or co-actor, the prosecutor’s
office said.
During the searches, military-type training
uniforms, propaganda materials from the Islamic State group and computer
material were seized and are being examined. However, no weapons or
explosives were found, the prosecutor’s office said.
Six people were taken in for questioning, but four were released, the office said.
The
prosecutor’s office said no additional details would be made public,
but that the probe was not connected to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, in
which numerous suspects, including presumed ringleader Abdelhamid
Abaaoud and fugitive Salah Abdeslam, had connections to Belgium.
On
November, 21, after the Paris attacks that killed 130 and injured
hundreds, the terrorist alert level for all of the Belgian capital was
temporarily raised to its maximum level.




Police and soldiers in Brussels have also been ordered to
take special precautions to ensure their own safety, said Benoit
Ramacker, spokesman for the Belgian government’s Crisis Center.
Police
and army patrols were greatly beefed up in Brussels following the Paris
attacks, and Ramacker said a new official threat assessment conducted
Monday evening after the latest searches and arrests concluded the
officers and soldiers deployed to protect others from extremist attacks
might become targets themselves “in the exercise of their functions.”
Nine
people suspected of links to the Paris attacks have also been arrested
in Belgium, with the most recent arrest occurring December 22, 2015.
Belgium
has also been one of the leading sources in Europe for foreigners
recruited to fight for Islamic State and other extremist Islamic
organizations.
In December, 2015, Belgian anti- police
targeted a group of returnees from Syria, raided a house in the eastern
city of Verviers, killing two suspected jihadis linked to Abaaoud, the
leader of the Paris attacks, and arresting a third. Abaaoud, however,
was not there.

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