Belgium arrests two over 'New Year plot'

  • 29 December 2015
  • From the section Europe
A Belgian special forces police officer patrols a street during a police raid in central Brussels (image from 20 December) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Belgium has seen several anti-terror raids since November's attacks in Paris

Belgian police have arrested two people suspected of planning attacks in Brussels during the festive season.

Raids took place on Sunday and Monday in Brussels and the provinces of Flemish Brabant and Liege.

Police seized military clothing and computer equipment in the raids, but no weapons or explosives.

Belgium has been on high alert since the attacks of 13 November in Paris. Several of the perpetrators are thought to have been based in Belgium.

However, the latest arrests are not linked to the Paris attacks, prosecutors say.

One of those arrested is suspected of leading and recruiting for a terrorist cell.

The suspects are accused of planning attacks against several "symbolic targets" in Brussels, as well as on the police, according to the Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

Jihadists in Belgium

  • Jewish Museum, Brussels, May 2014: Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman from just over the border in Roubaix, accused of murdering four people
  • Paris attacks, 7-9 January 2015: Gunman Ahmed Coulibaly is thought to have gone to Brussels to buy the rocket-launchers and guns used to kill 17 people
  • Verviers raid, 16 January 2015: Two men killed in police raid in eastern Belgian town, amid reports of plot to attack Belgian police. Abdelhamid Abaaoud described as mastermind of planned attack
  • Thalys thwarted train attack, 21 August 2015: Suspect Ayoub El Khazzani said to have stayed at sister's house in Molenbeek before attack on high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels
  • Paris attacks, 13 November 2015: Ringleader of the attacks thought to be Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, with several other suspects having links to Belgium

Is bashing Belgium justified?

Propaganda for the so-called Islamic State group was among the materials seized.

Another four people were questioned in the raids and released without charge.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Belgium has seen an increased security presence in recent weeks

In November Brussels was placed under a four-day lockdown closing universities, schools and the metro system, amid fears of a Paris-style attack.

The presumed ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was a Belgian national who had travelled to fight in Syria.

Police in Belgium and beyond have been hunting Salah Abdeslam, a French national who was born in Brussels, in connection with the attacks. His brother Brahim blew himself up during the attacks, investigators say.

Belgium has struggled to contain Islamist militancy in recent years - more Belgians have gone to fight for the militant Islamic State (IS) group than from any other European country, per capita.

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