Newspaper headlines: Belgium terror raid and Oscar hopes

Dramatic photographs showing the aftermath of an anti-terrorism operation involving police and the military in Belgium feature in many of Friday's newspapers.

Two men suspected of fighting with Islamic State militants in Syria were shot dead and a third arrested when they opened fire on police in the eastern town of Verviers.

The Daily Mirror reports they were ready to unleash attacks on Belgian soil "within hours". The raid is a sign that terrorism is the "new normal", suggests the paper's leader column.

According to the Times, the raids "heightened tensions across Europe, still reeling" from last week's killings at Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Image copyright Reuters

Belgian police said they had prevented a "second Paris", reports the Daily Telegraph on its front page. The country is "grimly familiar with Islamist terrorist attacks and has seen a series of threats and false bomb alarms in recent days," it adds.

Based on its population, data shows Belgium is the European country with the highest proportion of citizens who have taken part in fighting in Syria over the past four years, notes the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, the Sun reports that a mother from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, who left the UK with her 16-month-old son to join Islamic State fighters in Syria has fled from the jihadists. Friends tell the paper it is a "miracle" the 25-year-old - now said to be being questioned by Turkish authorities - managed to escape.

Calais concerns

The opening of the new Jules Ferry refugee camp in Calais leaves the Daily Mail and Daily Express up in arms.

The Daily Mail fears the facility, which will reportedly cost £6m a year to run, will act as a "magnet" for asylum seekers.

Visiting the 12-acre site, the paper's Andy Martin reports that one of the four chefs at the camp trained at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Mail says the centre was built after the number of rough sleepers in Calais began to swell last year. But the paper suggests France's aim is "nakedly cynical: To give the migrants a perfect staging post to get to the UK so they don't have to deal with the inevitable - and hugely expensive - asylum claims".

In the Daily Express, political commentator Stephen Pollard says the camp is "beyond satire". He worries that France "instead of clamping down on the illegals... built a camp where they can rest and entertain themselves in between attempts to cross the Channel into Britain".

The Sun says it is an "insane" situation, pointing out that UK taxpayers contribute about £400,000-a-year to the EU pot that helps funds the camp.

Eye-catching headlines

  • Green-eyed monster blamed for 'fence wars' - the Daily Telegraphconsiders a Ministry of Justice report on warring neighbours
  • Animal lovers wooed by 'manifesto for cats' - the Independent says a charity hopes cat owners can be the next voter group to influence the outcome of a general election
  • Thunderbirds are go - with no strings -the Guardian is among the papers to examine the look of ITV's CGI-animated Thunderbirds
Image copyright PA
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge is pictured in the papers alongside artist Grayson Perry at the opening of a new art room at a London primary school

'US schmoozing'

David Cameron's visit to Washington for two days of talks with US President Barack Obama is seen as pre-election gift for the prime minister.

The Financial Times says Mr Cameron's last planned trip abroad before May's poll had Downing Street hoping that two days of photocalls and meetings in the White House will boost his popularity.

In the Guardian, Dan Roberts agrees Mr Cameron stands to gain "domestic credibility... by appearing statesmanlike at a time of international tension".

And while he says the UK-US "special relationship" is an outdated concept when it comes to diplomacy, recent criticism that President Obama did not show enough solidarity with his European allies after the Paris attacks will mean the White House will be "unusually keen this week to stress the permanence of the transatlantic alliance".

Image copyright Reuters

Reporting from the US capital, the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts says Mr Cameron is being given "best-buddy treatment" by President Obama. "It gives him some useful top-division schmoozing opportunities".

But the cartoonists take inspiration from the climbers who spent more than two weeks scaling the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in their portrayal of Mr Cameron's visit. The Independent's Dave Brown has the prime minister as the "unsupported climber", struggling to cling on to the face of Mr Obama carved into rocks.

And the Times notes that Mr Cameron did not have a UK monopoly in Washington. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls was also in town to launch a report and says the paper turned on its head an "ancient tradition, now rarely observed" that opposition politicians do not criticise their governments while travelling overseas when he accused the PM of "sleepwalking" the UK to an European Union exit.

Back at home, writing in the Daily Mirror, Labour leader Ed Miliband voices his concern that almost one million people are "missing" from the electoral register in England and Wales after the coalition introduced a new system of individual voter registration. The Independent features the story on its front page, saying students are particularly affected and there are fears of "disenfranchised generation".

Oscar hopes

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption British hopefuls include Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch, both nominated for The Imitation Game

The nominations for the Academy Awards are widely reported and there is plenty of focus on British hopefuls.

The Times says it was a record year for UK nominations, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones in the top acting categories, not to mention Keira Knightley's best supporting actress nod.

And with two UK productions about scientists - The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything - nominated for best picture, British film appears to have found a "formula" for Oscar success, it adds.

The Daily Mirror says the shortlist "does Britain proud". Redmayne, who plays Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, will be fighting it out at another awards ceremony with Cumberbatch as World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing. But it does note that they are up against Michael Keaton, the star of the most nominated film at the Oscars, Birdman.

Two film critics, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw and Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin, do, however, find faults in the list of nominees.

Bradshaw picks out several omissions such as Mike Leigh's Mr Turner, and The Lego Movie in the animation category. Collin suggests the Academy ignored "some of the best and most important films of the year", saying the few nominations garnered by Selma, set against the civil rights marches of 1965, and the thriller Inherent Vice, means they can "rightfully feel short-changed".

Making people click

Financial Times: White House home truths for David Cameron

Daily Mirror: Jeremy Kyle guest causes Twitter to explode

The Guardian: How to look interesting (when you're not)

Daily Telegraph: Wenger to work night and day to spend £20m