German police arrest two on suspicion of planning attack

Brussels security alert lowered after almost a week on maximum level

Armed police stand guard as others search a van at the scene in the Karl-Elsasser Street in Berlin’s southern suburb of Britz . Photograph: John MacDougall /AFP/Getty Images

Armed police stand guard as others search a van at the scene in the Karl-Elsasser Street in Berlin’s southern suburb of Britz . Photograph: John MacDougall /AFP/Getty Images

 

German police commando units arrested two people suspected of planning an attack and searched an Islamic cultural centre on Thursday.

Police raided the cultural centre in western Berlin and arrested two men aged 28 and 48 at a separate location in the south of the capital.

An object “presumed to be hazardous” was found in a car used by the two men, prompting police to block off the area and evacuate several buildings, according to a police statement.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday the security threat level in Germany remained high after the Paris attacks.

Meanwhile, Belgium has lowered the security threat level in Brussels after nearly a week on maximum alert following the Islamic State attacks in Paris, a government minister said.

Confirming earlier reports, Kris Peeters, the economy minister, told public broadcaster VRT that the national threat assessment agency, made up of security experts and officials, had taken the decision.

The government’s national security council was meeting to discuss concrete measures to be taken.

The reduction to Level 3 - serious, a possible and probable threat - from Level 4 - a very serious, “imminent” threat - brings the capital into line with the rest of the country.

Immediately after the Paris attacks on November 13th, Belgium raised its security alert to Level 3 and a week later put Brussels onto maximum alert as police hunted a local suspect in the violence in France as well as accomplices who the government said might be planning similar attacks in the Belgian capital. The suspect remains at large.

Police have mounted a number of raids and searches over the past two weeks in Belgium, the most recent on Thursday, and have charged five people with terrorism offences linked to the Paris attacks.

On Thursday, the Great Mosque of Brussels was evacuated and 11 people decontaminated after the discovery of a suspicious package containing white powder.