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Belgian police arrest 12 in anti-terror raids

June 18, 2016

Authorities in Belgium have charged three people suspected of planning new terror attacks. The swoop comes less than three months after 32 people were killed in suicide bombings targeting the capital, Brussels.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/L. Durule

Belgian police officers detained 12 people after raiding dozens of houses and garages across the country, the federal prosecutor's office said Saturday.

They later announced that nine of the suspects had been released, while three had been charged with attempting to commit terrorist murder.

Some 40 buildings in 16 municipalities had been searched as part of a major counterterror operation overnight, authorities said. No weapons or explosives were found during the raids.

The case required "immediate intervention," they had said in a statement.

Monitoring 'hour by hour'

"The situation is under control," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel had announced after chairing a meeting of the national security council.

"We are extremely vigilant, we are monitoring the situation hour by hour and we will continue with determination the fight against extremism, radicalization and terrorism," he said.

Belgium is still under the second-highest terror alert following the March 22 attacks on Brussels' international airport and metro system which killed 32 people.

"It is not over," Interior Minister Jan Jambon said. "We remain under terror alert 3; it means that something is still up."

IS members headed to Europe

Flemish public broadcaster VTM said the people arrested overnight were suspected of planning an attack on Brussels this weekend during one of Belgium's soccer matches in the Euro 2016 tournament. Neighboring France, which is hosting the Euros, is also on high alert following November attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Belgian police this week received an anti-terror alert warning that a number of militants from the "Islamic State" extremist group had recently left Syria and were on their way to Europe. Security officials said the group was planning attacks in Belgium and France in the near future.

On Friday, Belgian police charged a 30-year-old man with murder in connection to the March suicide attacks in Brussels. The Belgian national, named as Youssef E.A., is one of several charged over the bombings.

Belgium: Life after the terror attacks

nm/jlw (AP, AFP, Reuters)