Brussels extends terror alert over fears of an imminent terror attack

Brussels will stay at the highest security threat level for another week over fears of an imminent terror attack, the Belgian government said.

hidden November 24, 2015 17:14:17 IST
Brussels extends terror alert over fears of an imminent terror attack

Brussels: Brussels will stay at the highest security threat level for another week over fears of an imminent terror attack, the Belgian government said.

Authorities in Belgium and France were hunting for Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks on November 13, when gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least 130 people.

Brussels extends terror alert over fears of an imminent terror attack

Soldiers stand guard in front of the Brussels Central Train Station on Sunday. AFP

French police were on Tuesday analysing a suspected suicide belt similar to those used in the Paris assault, according to sources close to the investigation.

Authorities found the object - which lacked a detonator - in a dustbin in the southern suburb of Montrouge. Telephone data placed Abdeslam in the area on the night of 13 November.

Another police source said the belt appeared to have "the same configuration" as those used by the jihadists.

Fearing a similar attack, Belgium maintained an unprecedented security lockdown in Europe's capital Brussels, with Prime Minister Charles Michel warning yesterday that the threat "remains serious and imminent".

Belgian authorities have charged a fourth person in connection with the bloodshed in Paris, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Washington and Paris have stepped up their fight against IS, with France launching its first strikes from a newly deployed aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean and the US calling for more international cooperation against the group.

"Current information suggests that ISIL (another acronym for Islamic State), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions," said a State Department travel advisory.

The UN Security Council on Friday authorised "all necessary measures" to fight the group.

In Brussels, an eerie atmosphere hung over the city with soldiers in camouflage patrolling everywhere, from railway stations to EU institutions.

In the normally bustling historic Grand Place, a few bars and restaurants were open for business but they were struggling to find customers.

In downtown Brussels, the only real activity was deliverymen offloading crates for near-empty shops as builders hammered together stalls for a Christmas market meant to open on Friday.

"My grandson said we should up sticks and move to the south of the Yser river, just like in World War I (after the Germans invaded)," said Michel, a retired man from a Dutch-speaking suburb.

"We have to be careful, but life has to go on - otherwise we're finished," said his wife Patricia.

The army and armed police will remain on the streets in coming days, the Belgian prime minister said, but schools and the metro system would reopen from Wednesday.

AFP

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