Thursday

20th Jun 2019

Evidence of new terrorist plot in EU capital

Belgium has raised the terrorist threat level for police stations in Brussels following intelligence of another jihadist plot.

Authorities on Tuesday (29 December) raised the level from two to three in measures to last until 4 January.

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The move means: there’ll be armed officers outside police stations; opening hours and public access will be restricted; officers can go on patrol only in pairs; and police auxillaries can only move around with an armed escort.

The alert comes after house raids in the Belgian and EU capital on Sunday and Monday led to two arrests, as well as seizures of computer equipment, Islamic State (IS) propaganda, and military clothes, but not weapons.

According to an internal police note, dated Monday, and seen by the Belga news agency, there is “a possible and credible threat of Paris-type attacks” against: visitors to the Grand Place, in Brussels’ tourist centre; the main police station adjoining the square; and against police and military personnel in general.

The attack was to be carried out in the New Year holiday period. But it was not said to be "imminent," which would have merited a level four alert.

Belgium in general is, in any case, on level three since November, when security services expected a Paris-type attack against shopping centres. But police facilities had been left on level two.

The general level three alert means soldiers in combat fatigues continue to patrol the streets in Brussels' city centre, putting a dampener on the atmosphere, with shops, bars, and restaurants less busy than normal.

The sense of alarm comes after IS-inspired gunmen killed 130 people in Paris on 13 November, with several of the attackers linked to Belgium.

But the Brussels military patrols have also become part of normality, with one soldier recently pictured with a shopping bag.

Other European cities, including London and Moscow, are also taking extra security precautions after an unnamed intelligence service uncovered signs of a Paris-type plan to attack New Year’s revellers.

Belgium has the highest concentration in the world per capita of nationals who went to fight with IS in Syria.

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Two months and a half after the Paris attacks, the French and Belgian PMs agreed on closer cooperation as the two countries faced "the same terrorist threat".

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