Dozens of suspected terrorists arrested in northern Europe

Arrests in Belgium, Germany and France follow Belgian raid in which two jihadists killed

 

Dozens of suspected terrorists were arrested by police across northern Europe yesterday as part of a crackdown on jihadism, as Belgian authorities said they had foiled an imminent attack on Belgian police forces.

Thirteen suspects were arrested by Belgian police, and a further two in France, following Thursday’s police raid in Verviers during which two suspected jihadists were killed. Five of the suspects were charged last night in Brussels. Germany detained two suspects in Berlin, having searched 11 premises, while 12 people – eight men and four women – were in police custody in France last night in connection with last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor Eric van der Sypt said that a “concrete plan” to kill members of the Belgian police force had been averted following 12 separate raids on residences in the wake of Thursday’s events in Verviers. The attack could have taken place within “hours, certainly no more than a day or two”, Mr van der Sypt said.

Amid heightened security in Brussels, Belgium’s prime minister Charles Michel told a news conference the army was on standby to support police as Belgium’s security alert level was raised from two to three under a four-point security scale for the first time since the 1980s.

Increased security

A number of Jewish schools in Antwerp and Brussels closed yesterday, while the European Commission also increased security, though a spokeswoman said there had been no specific threat against the institution.

 

German police confirmed that two men had been arrested in Berlin on suspicion of recruiting fighters for the Islamic State in Syria following dawn raids on 11 residences yesterday.

The suspects, who are understood to have roots in the Turkish community, had not been planning attacks in Germany, officials said.

As US secretary of state John Kerry visited Paris, tensions remained high in the French capital. An armed man held several people hostage in a post office northwest of Paris, though he later surrendered and was arrested by police. Gare de l’Est in Paris was also evacuated after an alleged bomb threat.

In Brussels, police said the two people killed by anti-terrorist police on Thursday were still being formally identified. While the two deceased had recently returned from Syria, officials could not confirm if all 15 suspects arrested as part of the Belgian counter-terrorism operation had spent time in Syria, though all were part of the same terrorist network.

Nine of the suspects had been arrested in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, just west of the city centre, and home to a large Muslim population.

Kalashnikov

 

rifles Police retrieved

police uniforms, four Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition, false documents, and a large amount of cash from the apartment in which the two deceased were shot, the federal prosecutor said.

French prime minister Manuel Valls said there “seemed to be” no links between events in France and the raid on the extremist hideout in Belgium on Thursday. “The link that exists is the will of terrorists to attack our values, our compatriots”.

The fallout from those events continued further afield. Clashes between police and protesters outside the French consulate in Karachi, Pakistan left four people with gunshot wounds, two of them journalists.

In Niger, four people were killed when protests against Charlie Hebdo turned violent. There were also clashes in Algeria.