Belgian police charge nine after anti-terror raids

Masked police raid a house in Antwerp (23 Nov 2010)
Image caption Media reports said the inquiry had begun in December 2009

Nine people have been charged in Belgium with belonging to terrorist groups after a series of raids in three countries.

Seven were arrested in Antwerp on Tuesday in connection with a year-long investigation into an alleged plot to attack Belgium.

Arrests were also made in Amsterdam and the German city of Aachen.

Another 15 suspects were detained in Brussels as part of a separate inquiry and all but two have been released.

All nine suspects are due to appear in court on 26 November either in Brussels or the nearby town of Mechelen, Belgian radio reports.

Chechen militants

A spokesman for the Belgian prosecutor's office said they had been charged with "participation in activities of a terrorist group".

The seven detained in Antwerp are alleged to have been part of a network planning an attack in Belgium and to have been involved in funding for a Chechen militant group called "Caucasus Emirate".

The spokesman added that three men arrested in Amsterdam and one detained in Aachen were expected to be extradited to Belgium.

Dutch police said on Tuesday that the three men detained there, aged 25, 26 and 28, had been picked up at the request of the Belgian authorities.

In Germany, police said they had arrested a man "in connection with suspicion of recruiting young men in Belgium to fight in Chechnya".

The inquiry began last December, according to Belgian daily newspaper, De Standaard, in response to intelligence that a young Belgian of Moroccan origin was planning an attack which had not reached "a concrete stage".

Iraq and Afghanistan

The Brussels investigation goes back three years and involves allegations of funding and recruitment for militant groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seventeen properties were searched on Tuesday in the capital as part of an operation to dismantle a "group of a terrorist nature", federal prosecutors said.

The raids are not thought to be related to recent reports of possible attacks in Germany and the Belgian authorities have not raised the terror alert level.

It currently stands at two on a scale of four.

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