Brussels On Terror Lockdown
The Belgium capitol of Brussels entered its third day of a military lockdown on Monday, as authorities continued their search for a key suspect of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
Universities, shopping malls, museums, food markets, the subway system, and even City Hall remained closed as the city remained jittery. Areas usually bustling with holiday shoppers and tourists were deserted, save for a few sight-seers and a very heavy military presence.
Prime Minister Charles Michel announced in a news conference that Brussels would remain at a Level 4 alert, the highest level, with the rest of Belgium at Level 3, until Wednesday the earliest. Public schools and the subways were scheduled to reopen then, but in other respects, “the situation remains the same as yesterday,” the Prime Minister said. Regarding the investigation, PM Michel said only that the police “are working hard,” and he called on the public to “remain vigilant.”
Citizens were reminded that they could leave their homes, but that they should “avoid unnecessary travel to busy places and comply with any potential security check.”
At the center of the lockdown is 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who has been identified as the driver for several terrorists in the Paris attacks. At least four of the attackers in Paris had lived in Belgium, including Abdeslam and the suspected ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid outside Paris last week.
A total of 19 security operations, including raids on five homes in the Brussels area and two in the Liège region, took place Sunday night. Arrests were made but Abdeslam remains at large; the police seized 26,000 euros, or about $27,600, and arrested five people, in addition to 16 others who were detained on Sunday.
Later Monday, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that a judge had placed in custody one of the 16 on charges of participating in the terrorist attack in Paris and had released the others. Two of the five arrested this morning have been released, the prosecutor said, while the judge will decide on the others tomorrow.
The lawyer for one of the 21 individuals arrested since Sunday said that they were friends and relatives of Abdeslam, and that police were looking to question them on their conversations with him before the Paris attacks.