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Belgium to debate anti-terror policies

January 16, 2015

Belgium's foreign minister has described the police raids in which two terror suspects were killed as over, after a vast operation that ran into the night. Police in Paris have also collared a dozen suspects.

Belgien Anti-Terror-Einsatz in Verviers 15.01.2015
Image: Reuters/Stringer

Belgian radio station RTBF reported on Friday morning that politicians in Brussels would debate anti-terror policies, a day after wide-ranging raids against terror suspects in which two were killed in a shootout with police. Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that the sting, which ran into Thursday night, was completed.

"Operations on the ground are now over. We are now exploiting the information," Reynders said on broadcaster iTele. "We will check with the police and judicial authorities to see if there are other steps to take."

Thursday's shootout took place in the rural Ardennes town of Verviers, near Liege and the border with Germany; two suspects were killed and a third arrested and charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. All three people involved had recently returned from Syria.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Eric Van Der Sypt, said that no formal link had currently been identified with the terror attacks in Paris last week, also saying that investigations into the suspects had begun before the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"The investigation allowed us to determine that this group was about to commit major terrorist attacks in Belgium, and imminently," another prosecutors' spokesman, Thierry Werts, said.

Prime Minister Charles Michel followed the police operations, also on Thursday raising the country's terror alert level from three to two, on a scale of four.

15.01.2015 DW Karte Karussell Belgien Brüssel Verviers englisch
Verviers is in one of the country's poorest regions

"We do not have knowledge of specific or concrete threats, however, in light of the situation we consider that it is worthwhile to raise our level of prudence and vigilance," Michel told the Reuters news agency.

Parliament to talk tapping, overnight arrests in Paris

RTBF radio reported that politicians would on Friday debate various new security policies, such as broader telephone surveillance of suspects, plans to prevent radicalization in domestic prisons, and closer monitoring of social networking websites. The topic was already on the day's agenda, but is liable to take on a new resonance after Thursday's raids.

RTBF also reported that tapped phone calls had led police to the suspects, claiming that the men were planning to attack police and the judiciary.

More people have left Belgium to join the civil war in Syria than any other European country. Authorities estimate that around 100 people have returned to Belgium from the conflict, around 40 have been killed in Syria, and roughly 170 are still in the warzone.

Meanwhile, in Paris overnight, police arrested a dozen people suspected of helping the gunmen in last week's killings in the French capital. The arrests made in the region south of Paris including Montrouge, where a young policewoman was killed in the attacks, were in connection with suspected "logistical support" for the shootings, an official said.

msh/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)