Belgian Police Arrest 16 In Anti-Terror Raids On 2nd Day Of High Threat Alert
On Sunday, 22 raids were carried out across Brussels and Charleroi in Belgium, according to what prosecutor Eric van der Sypt said in a news conference. Police fired two shots at a car in Molenbeek — a Brussels neighborhood where suspects connected to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks once lived — and injured one suspect, who was later arrested. By the end of the evening, 16 were arrested in the raids, and authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the Paris attacks claimed by ISIS. Brussels has been under high threat alert all weekend, as a manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of being the eight gunman in the terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last Friday, is ongoing.
ABC News reported that the police incidents unfolded shortly after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced the the highest terror threat level, 4, would stay in effect through the night for those in Brussels, and a terror threat level of 3 would be in effect for the rest of the country. Earlier today, police were stationed along streets around the Grand Place square in Brussels, where they worked to move people off the streets and sidewalks. ABC also reported that, "Some frantic police pointed guns and shouted as they tried to keep the streets clear ... Outside the cordoned off areas, people were able to move freely, but very few people were on the streets."
In total, the lockdown lasted about three to four hours. As it was scaled back, police and military officers remained, but some major streets were once again opened to small amounts of traffic, and a few side streets were allowed to be opened to foot traffic. However, the subway system was to remain closed at least until Monday, and Brussels' schools will be closed.
On Saturday, Vice Prime Minister Didier Reynders told Belgian television network RTL, "The threat is imminent, precise. We're talking about possible attacks by several individuals, heavily armed, so obviously in parallel we are looking for one and more individuals with weapons, explosives." Prime Minister Michel also stated on Saturday that the decision to raise the city and nation-wide threat levels was based on "precise" information.
Mohammed Abdeslam, brother of Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in Paris, and Salah Abdeslam, who is currently being searched for, spoke to Belgian TV on Sunday to urge his fugitive brother to turn himself in.
These raids are a result of the series of coordinated terror attacks in Paris last Friday which killed 130 and injured hundreds more. Since then, Belgians have responded by posting cat pictures under the hashtag #BelgianLockdown.