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Belgium detains 16 in raids against Chechen jihadists

policeBelgian police on Monday detained 16 people for questioning during nationwide raids targeting Chechen jihadist groups, federal prosecutors said, adding that some are suspected of training or fighting in Syria.

“The investigation targeted religious jihadism in a part of the Chechen community,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The 16 were detained in 21 raids, it added.

The police carried out the raids simultaneously because the two “extremist and Salafist Chechen groups… were linked to each other,” the office said.

It added that “several people mentioned in the case had probably been active in Syria, especially in the area of Aleppo and probably took part in the fighting”.

The raids took place in Ostend, Bredene, Antwerp, Jabbeke, Louvain, and Namur.

The statement said the investigation was launched in February after the police obtained information that a person from the port city of Ostend “was wounded,” apparently after waging jihad in Syria, and “returned to Belgium in order to receive medical care”.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel praised the work of the police and courts who “once again showed the full mobilisation and determination of the authorities to fight terrorism without let-up”.

He added: “We will leave no place in our democracy for any of these people who represent a real threat to our citizens”.

The prosecutor’s office said “the investigators worked closely with US authorities in order to be able to check communication from WhatsApp,” the phone technology allegedly used by the suspects.

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