Belgium arrests five more suspects linked to Paris attacks

Belgian police arrest five more suspects connected with deadly Paris attacks during anti-terror raids in Brussels

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Belgian police officers arrest a man during a continued high level security situation following the recent deadly Paris attacks, in Brussels, Belgium on November 22, 2015

On Monday, Belgian security forces arrested five suspects related to Paris attacks and the number of arrestees has risen to 21 since police carried out a series of raids on Sunday after a huge security lockdown,

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will give a statement over police operations against suspected DAESH members.

The federal prosecutor's spokesman said some 22 raids were started on Sunday in Brussels and Charleroi.

The public prosecutor stated early on Monday that the key suspect of Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was not caught during Sunday's raids that 16 suspects were arrested.

During one of 22 raids carried out in the Belgian capital, Brussels, police fired on a vehicle but it was not immediately known whether those inside were connected to people who were wanted, the prosecutor said.

Three houses were also raided in Charleroi, south of Brussels.

"Sixteen people were detained,” during 22 raids, with one person injured in a collision with a police vehicle, “the judge will decide tomorrow whether they will be held further," federal prosecutor spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told a press conference.

"We can stress that no weapons or explosives were found. Abdeslam Salah was not found during the raids," he added.

On Sunday, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel spoke after a meeting of security chiefs called to review the threat status that the Belgian government raised the level in and around Brussels to four, the highest level. He declared another day of lockdown in Brussels, fearing a new mass attack similar to those in Paris may be imminent.

Michel told reporters that they feared "an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could also possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations".

Michel said Brussels would remain on the highest level of terror alert after the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Metro systems, kindergartens, schools and universities would also remain closed, he added.

“We realise that these measures will complicate economic and professional life … and we are doing everything we can to return to normality as soon as possible,” Michel told reporters.

A Belgian soldier patrols along a street during a continued high level of security following the recent deadly Paris attacks, in Brussels, Belgium on November 22, 2015 (Reuters)

The Canadian Embassy in Brussels also announced on Sunday that it is closed “until further notice” and will only provide emergency consular services in the interim as security is ramped up in Belgium’s capital.

Security forces are in particular looking for suspect Salah Abdeslam, 26, in connection to the bloody attacks in Paris on November 13, which left at least 130 people dead and more than 300 others injured.

Security officials strongly believe that Salah Abdeslam left Paris and returned to his home in Brussels following the attacks.

Two suicide bombers in the Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam and Bilal Hadfi, had been living in Belgium.

Brussels has been on lockdown over the whole weekend during terror operations that were carried out in an attempt to catch Abdeslam.

On Sunday, Brussels police requested to silence the tweets for the safety of ongoing terror operations. At the request of police, one of the major media stations in Brussels RTL announced that they have stopped tweeting about the ongoing operations.

Belgian social media users posted cat pictures on their Twitter accounts early on Monday after Belgian police asked people not to share posts about police movement in the country’s capital Brussels for the safety of ongoing terror operations.

TRTWorld and agencies