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Security lockdown in Brussels

November 21, 2015

Brussels' terrorism alert has been raised to the highest level after "precise information" of an attack risk, the Belgian prime minister has said. Public buildings have been asked to close.

Troops patrol Brussels
Image: Reuters/F. Lenoir

The Belgian capital, Brussels, remained on its highest security alert on Saturday, with the government speaking of an "imminent threat" from Belgium-based militiants.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said there was "quite precise information about the risk of an attack like the one that happened in Paris ... where several individuals with arms and explosives launch actions, perhaps even in several places at the same time."

Public buildings, shopping centers and markets should be closed and sporting events canceled in the Belgian capital, the head of the Brussels region Rudi Vervoort said. Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur recommended that cafes, bars and discos close by 6 p.m. local time but there was no binding order to do so and some remained open.

Heavily armed police and soldiers were patrolling the streets, and the city's metro system has been shut down. Authorities advised residents to avoid crowded areas. Soccer matches were postponed because of the terrorism alert.

Gemany has advised its citizens who are traveling to Belgium to avoid crowded places in the Brussels region, including train stations, concert halls and shopping centers.

Brussels transportation operator STIB said on its website that buses were still running, but that several trams would be affected by the closure.

Brüssel U-Bahn Station
Public transport in Brussels has been disruptedImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Thys

Belgian connection

Despite the imposition of the Level 4 alert, Interior Minister Jan Jambon told reporters that the situation was serious but "under control."

The alert comes amid concerns that at least one person suspected of involvement in the November 13 Paris attacks could be at large in Belgium. The country has been at the center of investigations into the attacks after it emerged that two of the Paris suicide bombers had been living there.

In a development that underlines the Belgian connection with the attacks, Turkey's Dogan news agency reported on Saturday that a Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin had been arrested near the southern resort city of Antalya along with two Syrian citizens. The report said the 26-year-old man was accused of reconnoitering the sites for the Paris attacks.

According to the Dogan news agency, Turkish anti-terror police had followed the man after he arrived at Antalya's airport and checked into a luxury hotel in the resort of Manavgat on November 16.

Four people also remain in custody in Belgium itself on suspicion of involvement in the attacks, which have cost 130 people their lives.

tj,das/sms (AFP, AP)