Europe

Brussels shutdown as manhunt for Paris fugitive Abdeslam continues

  • 22 November 2015
  • From the section Europe
Police patrol near the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels Image copyright AP
Image caption Brussels is on its highest level of alert

Central Brussels was almost empty on Saturday night as a terror alert led restaurants and bars to shut early amid fears of a Paris-style attack.

Soldiers patrolled the streets as a manhunt continued for the fugitive Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted in connection with last week's attacks.

Friends said he was in the Brussels area and trying to get to Syria.

The city was a base for the attackers - Islamic State militants - who killed 130 people in Paris.

The Belgian authorities placed Brussels on its highest level of alert late on Friday.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said later there had been "quite precise information" that "several individuals with arms and explosives could launch an attack... perhaps even in several places".

Follow the latest developments

Brussels terror threat: 'Everyone is on edge'

Belgium's jihadist networks

Paris attacks caused archbishop 'doubt'

One of the men who drove Salam Abdeslam to Belgium told his lawyer that he was dressed in a "big jacket" and may have had a suicide belt.

The lawyer, Carine Couquelet, told Belgian TV this raised questions, including the possibility that Salah Abdeslam may have been supposed to blow himself up in Paris but had had second thoughts.

Friends of Abdeslam told ABC News they had spoken to him on Skype and said he was hiding in Brussels and desperately trying to get to Syria.

They said he was caught between European authorities hunting him and so-called Islamic State members who were "watching him" and were unhappy that he had not detonated his suicide belt.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The metro is closed until Sunday afternoon

Brussels residents were told to avoid crowds, the metro was closed along with cinemas and shopping malls, cafes and restaurants were asked to shut at 6pm and soldiers deployed on the streets.

The US embassy told Americans in the country to stay indoors and the US European Command issued a 72-hour restriction on travel to the city by all military personnel and contractors.

The government would review the security situation in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, Mr Michel said.

Media captionBelgian PM Charles Michel: Belgium 'at risk of attack'

Meanwhile on Saturday, members of the US rock band Eagles of Death Metal described the horror of the Bataclan concert hall massacre in their first interview since the attack.

Lead singer Jesse Hughes said that a group of fans who hid in the band's dressing room were found by the gunmen and slaughtered, all except for one who hid under Hughes's leather jacket.

In a clip from the interview with Vice News, which will be released in full next week, an emotional Hughes said: "A great reason why so many were killed was because so many people wouldn't leave their friends. So many people put themselves in front of people."

Turkey arrest

In Turkey, a Belgian man of Moroccan descent, Ahmad Dahmani, 26, was arrested at a luxury hotel in Antalya along with two other terror suspects, Turkish authorities told the BBC.

Dahmani is believed to have been in contact with the suspects who carried out the Paris attacks, an official said.

He arrived from Amsterdam on 14 November. There was no record of any warning from Belgian authorities about him, which is why he was allowed into Turkey, the official said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ahmad Dahmani, a Belgian citizen, was arrested in Turkey on suspicion of involvement in the Paris attacks

The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the Paris attacks, claimed by Islamic State militants.

French media have reported that nine militants carried out the attacks, and seven died on Friday night. So it is possible that another attacker - as well as Salah Abdeslam - is still at large.

Earlier, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to "redouble" action against IS following last week's deadly attacks in the French capital.

The attacks were the worst in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.

Special report: In-depth coverage of the attacks and their aftermath


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