Friday

15th Dec 2017

Belgian police arrest 16 in anti-terror raid

  • Police and military were a regular sight this weekend in much emptier than normal Brussels (Photo: Miguel Discart)

The Belgian police arrested 16 suspects in a raid on Sunday evening (22 November), but fugitive terror suspect Salah Abdeslam was not among them.

Authorities carried out 22 house searches in Belgium related to their investigation into a possible planned attack on Brussels, which has seen the centre of the city in a near-lockdown this weekend.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Many seemed to heed the government's advice to avoid public places. (Photo: Miguel Discart)

Nineteen of the arrests were made in the Brussels region and three in Charleroi, fifty kilometers south of the Belgian capital. No explosives or guns were found, said Eric Van Der Sypt, spokesperson for the federal prosecutor's office, at a press conference shortly after midnight on Monday (23 November).

“The whole operation proceeded without noteworthy incidents”, Van Der Sypt said, with the exception of one search in the Brussels neighbourhood Molenbeek, during which an attempt was made to run down police officers with a vehicle.

Police officers shot at the vehicle twice and were later were to arrest the driver. It is not yet clear how the attempted ramming was related to their investigation.

Van Der Sypt praised the inhabitants of the city, who were asked not to publish any information or photos on social media during the raid. Media were also asked to refrain from publishing until the raid was over.

“We thank you for respecting the provided guidelines. I think that the searches occurred without incidents because they were respected”, he noted.

In a surrealistic twist, many Belgians who agreed not to post photos of the raid published cat pictures on social media instead.

The large-scale raid wrapped up a tense weekend, which started in the small hours of Saturday when Belgian authorities raised the threat level to the highest mark for Brussels, indicating a “serious and imminent” threat.

Many shops and cafes closed, as did most museums and the city's metro service. Many people seemed to heed the government's advice to avoid public places.

On Sunday evening, some hours before the police raid ended, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel announced that the city would remain on high alert on Monday.

Interior minister Jan Jambon told press Monday morning that he could not give away too many details, but that “the work is not yet done”.

“We will continue until we have caught the whole lot,” he told the country's national broadcaster VRT.

EU meetings affected

The threat level will disrupt life in the European capital on Monday, with schools and universities closed.

European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who is in charge of the EU's personnel, said in a social media message that meetings in European Commission buildings can go ahead Monday, but she warned workers and visitors of heightened security checks.

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff remain our priority, so flexible working arrangements/telework are encouraged wherever possible,” Georgieva added.

European Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch said that the plenary session will start in Strasbourg as planned and that Brussels staff will also have flexible working arrangements.

In contrast, the presidency of the Council, which is where member states gather, announced Sunday evening that it “has decided to cancel the majority of non-essential meetings scheduled to take place tomorrow in the Council building”. Only the Eurogroup, the meeting of education ministers, and “a limited number of senior officials meetings will take place as planned”.

Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap

Mateusz Morawiecki has indicated he will stay on a collision course with the EU on judicial reform, despite EU Commission threats of sanctions.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  2. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  3. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  4. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  5. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont
  6. French central bank lifts 2017 growth forecast
  7. EU leaders set to move Brexit talks on to next stage
  8. EU leaders confirm support for two-state solution

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  2. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  3. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states
  4. EU asylum debate reopens old wounds
  5. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  6. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  7. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  8. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives