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Terror suspects arrested in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany

Police in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have arrested at least 10 Islamists suspected of plotting an attack in Belgium. Another 15 were arrested for allegedly recruiting insurgents for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Antwerp's main square

Dozens were arrested

Police in Belgium and neighboring countries carried out two separate anti-terror raids on Tuesday, arresting at least 25 people.

Federal prosecutors in Belgium first announced the arrests of at least 10 Islamists suspected of plotting an attack on an unknown target in Belgium.

"Ten Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Russian nationals have been arrested," a spokesman for the Belgian Prosecutor's office said on Tuesday. The Russian nationals were of Chechen origin, he said.

One of those Russians has been detained in the western German city of Aachen, close to the Dutch border. The others were arrested in Belgium's second city Antwerp and in the Dutch capital Amsterdam.

Extremist websites under scrutiny

The group used the extremist website Ansar Al Mujahideen, according to the prosecutors. The target has not been determined yet.

"There's also a website called Sharia for Belgium, which is dedicated to people who have motive to launch some kind of attack on Belgium specifically," Deutsche Welle's Brussels correspondent Vanessa Mock said.

Police van in front of the Reichstag

Security measures have been stepped up across Germany

"But at the moment we don't know exactly how those websites feed into those groups," she added.

The arrests followed a months-long investigation initiated by the Belgian authorities in late 2009 in cooperation with its European neighbors and the EU's judicial cooperation unit Eurojust.

The target of the attack is not known, but "they believe it might have been on Antwerp, seeing as the bulk of the arrests were made there. It hasn't been confirmed, but that's where the houses were raided," Mock said.

At least 15 arrested in later raids

Later on Tuesday evening, Belgian prosecutors announced at least 15 further arrests, made as part of an unrelated set of property searches in Brussels.

This second probe was investigating an Iraq and Afghanistan war recruitment drive, and a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said that "about 15 people" were detained.

Belgian authorities said the raids were the culmination of a three year investigation into a Belgian Islamic center, conducted with the cooperation of foreign police services. Some of the people arrested are suspected members of a group that has been trying to recruit people to go and fight for the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies.

No connection to German terror alert

But Germany's Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that the Belgian arrests had nothing to do with the current situation in Germany, where security measures have been stepped up because of intelligence suggesting a terror attack may be on the cards. Even the first set of arrests, one of which was made in Germany, was not thought to be connected to the terror warnings from Berlin.

"These are measures taken by the Belgian authorities, based on evidence suggesting that young Belgians are being recruited for the Islamist separatist fight in Chechnya," Stefan Paris, spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Dutch authorities also said that Tuesday's arrests were not connected to the situation in Germany.

Author: Nicole Goebel, Mark Hallam (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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