Brussels terror alert remains at level 4 after raids and arrests

Summary

The national security council has extended the weekend’s Level 4 terror alert for Brussels, after a series of raids on Sunday night led to 16 arrests. The terror level for Flanders remains at 3

Salah Abdeslam still at large

Brussels woke up this morning to a continuation of the weekend’s Level 4 terror alert, decided by the national security council on Sunday. Much of the city remains closed, as the threat of a terrorist action remains “genuine and imminent”. All of Flanders remains at a level 3 terror alert.

Also on Sunday, police carried out 19 searches of houses across the capital, including in Molenbeek, Anderlecht and Jette, during which 16 people were arrested. One man was shot attempting to drive his car at police in Molenbeek. No firearms or explosives were discovered during the raids, police said.

The fugitive Salah Abdeslam, believed to have taken part in the Paris attacks of 13 November, is still at large.

The threat level was originally raised to its highest level on Friday, and on Saturday the authorities asked for the cancellation of events and closure of venues attracting large numbers of people, including shopping centres, sports events, markets and concerts.

Muntpunt, the main Flemish public library in Brussels, was closed, as were cultural centres. Kinepolis and UGC cinemas were also closed. Ancienne Belgique cancelled its Sound/Check event for the music industry, and the Johnny Hallyday concert at Heizel was cancelled, as was a show by Daan in Vilvoorde. Violinist André Rieu cancelled a concert in Hasselt.

Bomb threats

Mechelen train station was evacuated and searched for explosives yesterday afternoon after a bomb threat, but nothing suspicious was found. The Medialaan building in Vilvoorde, home to VTM, 2BE, QMusic and other Flemish TV and radio media, was similarly threatened and searched with bomb-detecting dogs. Again, nothing was found.

The Brussels public transport network MIVB closed the metro and ran shuttle buses for those parts of the tram network that run underground. The underground network remains closed today. Trains are running normally, although the Brussels-Schuman stop is closed. A strike in Wallonia today is creating some delays on the network.

We’re asking a lot from citizens, but we will continue the restrictions as long as necessary

- Home affairs minister Jan Jambon

On Sunday evening, the federal police appealed to users of social media to not report police presence in their neighbourhoods in the interests of security. “The job is not yet done,” home affairs minister Jan Jambon told VRT Radio following the house raids. “The federal prosecutor’s office has the matter in hand; they will know what can be communicated and when.”

Banks and other major corporations advised their Brussels employees to work from home today, and Flemish welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen asked day care centres to remain closed. Extra security has been secured for government buildings, which are operating.

Schools in Brussels are closed, as are those in Dilbeek and Vilvoorde; police and armed military will continue to patrol the streets and guard public buildings. The Immigration Office will not handle asylum applications today, and Nato is closed.

Jambon said that the office for national threat assessment, OCAD, would reconsider the situation this afternoon. “Life goes on, albeit with many security restrictions,” he said. “That is asking a lot from citizens, but we will continue the restrictions as long as necessary.”

Belgium’s Crisis Centre website is regularly updated with the latest information in Dutch, French and German.

Photo: Xinhua/BELGA