Monday, 23 November 2015

Brussels still in lockdown as key terror suspect remains at large

Belgian police arrested 16 more people in late-night raids searching for those behind the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, but failed to find a prime suspect as the government locked down the capital for a third day on Monday.

Brussels will again see its metro and many shops closed, as well as schools, while offices in a city that is also home to the European Union and NATO are likely to have few staff after the prime minister warned of imminent Paris-style attacks.

Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year-old suspect from Brussels who has been on the run since he left Paris hours after his elder brother blew himself up at a cafe there, continues to elude a Europe-wide manhunt. A third brother, who was not involved, said Abdeslam may have thought better of going through with the killing. Belgian police fear he returned home to launch new attacks huffington post reports

"What we fear is an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations," Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference early on Sunday evening.

Shortly afterwards, armed police backed by armored vehicles and helicopters stationed overhead began a series of raids in which 19 premises in Brussels and three in the industrial city of Charleroi, 50 km (35 miles) to the south, were searched.

Prosecutor Eric van der Sypt told a news conference early on Monday that no weapons or explosives were found and that a judge would review the detentions of the 16 arrested. In one incident, police fired on a car that was later found in Brussels, but it was not clear, van der Sypt said, if it was linked to the case.

"Abdeslam Salah was not found during the raids," he added.

Several Belgian media carried unsourced reports saying Abdeslam had been spotted in a car near Liege heading towards the German border. There have been numerous reported sightings in recent days, but Abdeslam, a petty criminal who ran a bar in Brussels' Molenbeek immigrant quarter, has eluded police.

The Belgian government has advised the public to be alert but not to panic. People have been told to avoid crowds in the capital, while authorities have also closed museums, cinemas and shopping centers. Clubs and venues have canceled events.

Brussels' chief rabbi said the city's synagogues were shut over the weekend for the first time since World War Two. Soldiers are on guard at Jewish sites and public buildings.

The city was quiet and largely untroubled until after dark on Sunday. Shops are usually shut on Sundays. But business owners and hotelkeepers are starting to worry that the tourist trade, which usually picks up with a glittering Christmas market in Brussels' picturesque old town, could start to be damaged.

Forced indoors, some of Brussels' multilingual 1.2 million residents took to social media to share and joke about their frustration. Twitter hashtag #BrusselsLockdown spawned many photos of kittens, some in combat gear, a wry reference to the security level: Four, or in French, Quatre - pronounced


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