Belgium arrests three suspected Islamist militants
BELGIAN security forces arrested three suspected Islamist militants in fresh counter-terror raids after foiling a major plot to attack police earlier this month, officials said Tuesday.
The three arrests were made in the western town of Harelbeke, close to the French border, the Belga news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office in nearby Courtrai.
Belgium has been on high alert after two suspected militants were shot dead on January 15 in a series of anti-terror raids carried out in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
The prosecutors gave no details of those arrested nor of their possible ties to jihadi groups, Belga said, adding that reports of weapons being found could not be confirmed.
Officials in Courtrai were not immediately available while in Brussels, the federal prosecutors office declined to comment.
Flemish-language daily Het Laaste Nieuws said the three men from the Courtrai region had gone to fight in Syria and that two had made threats against Belgium on social media.
Belgium was one of a series of European countries that has made arrests in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish supermarket attacks in France, which left 17 people dead.
Two suspected militants who had just returned from Syria were killed in a raid in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers, sparking a nationwide alert which saw the Belgian government put troops on the streets to guard sensitive sites.
Belgian authorities said they had foiled a plot to kill police officers in the streets.
At the same time, the authorities said last week they are looking for a possible accomplice to Mehdi Nemmouche, charged with killing four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May.
Nemmouche, a French citizen, had returned from Syria where he had been fighting alongside Islamist extremists.
In France meanwhile, security forces arrested at least five people Tuesday during an anti-jihadist operation near the southern town of Montpellier.