Suspects planning major attacks killed in Belgian anti-terror raid

Belgian prosecutor says suspects were planning "terror attacks on a grand scale".
Police block a street in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers after an anti-terrorist operation on January 15, 2015. Olivier Hoslet / EPA
Police block a street in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers after an anti-terrorist operation on January 15, 2015. Olivier Hoslet / EPA

Brussels // Belgian police killed two men who opened fire on them during one of about a dozen raids on Thursday against a group that was about to launch “terrorist attacks on a grand scale”, a federal prosecutor said.

A third man was arrested during the operation in the eastern town of Verviers, Eric Van Der Sypt added.

“The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralised,” he said.

He said no police were injured in the operation, which was part of an investigation into extremists returning from Syria.

Belgian authorities had been monitoring the suspects for a long time and decided to move in after they intercepted phone conversations that revealed plans for a terrorist attack in the country’s capital, the newspaper Le Soir said.

Europe is on high alert after 17 people were killed in extremist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris last week.

Mr Van Der Sypt said that for the time being there was no direct connection the Paris attacks.

The raid in Verviers, a town near the eastern border with Germany, took place at about 5.45pm, Le Soir said.

Residents of Verviers reported gunfire and blasts.

“I heard a sort of explosion, followed by several gunshots,” one told public broadcaster RTBF. “For the moment I can’t tell you any more because I don’t dare go out to see what’s happening.”

Another resident said “machineguns were firing for about 10 minutes”.

Belgian police said earlier yesterday they were investigating whether an arms dealer had sold the weapons used in the Paris attacks.

They said they had confirmed that the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, sold the man a car belonging to his partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, who is still at large.

The Belgian dealer, Neetin Farasula, is being held on suspicion of a link to the weapons used in Paris.

* Bloomberg News and Agence France-Presse

Published: January 15, 2015 04:00 AM

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