Belgian Police Arrest 16 in Anti-Terror Raids, Paris Fugitive Still at Large

Belgian police arrested 16 people during operations in Brussels but failed to catch the man responsible for the attacks in Paris.

Belgian police conducted massive anti-terror raids on Sunday, managing to arrest 16 alleged ISIS members, but suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam remains at large.

During one of 19 raids that were run across the Belgium capital, police fired on a vehicle, but it was not clear if those inside were connected to those being sought, the authorities later told reporters. Three houses were also searched in Charleroi, south of Brussels.

“We can stress that no weapons or explosives were found. Abdeslam Salah was not found during the raids,” prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told a news conference. “Sixteen people were detained. The judge will decide tomorrow whether they will be held further,” he added.

The anti-terror raids were held in Brussels as Belgium authorities feared “an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could also possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations.”

Interior Minister Jan Jambon told a local radio, however, that Belgium’s capital was still operating. “Apart from the closed metro and schools, life goes on in Brussels, the public sector is open for business today, many companies are open,” Jambon said on Monday morning.

Belgium has become a very center of investigations of the tragic Paris acts of terror after French law enforcement bodies dound out that two of the suicide bombers had lived there. Abdeslam, the main suspect, had returned home to Brussels from Paris shortly after the attacks.

Among those who decided to go out on Monday was Zineb Toubarhi, a business engineering student in Brussels, who was waiting to catch a bus on a frosty morning.

“I am going to my friends’ place to look after their children today. They must go to work and the schools are closed. I’ve had classes cancelled at the university so I will help them,” she said. “It feels strange to see armed soldiers in the streets but this is for our security. So, I don’t know why, but I am not afraid.”

French security forces have made nearly 300 searches in the Paris region since the November 13 attacks that claimed lives of more than 120 people.

French police chief Michel Cadot reported on Monday a total of 298 searches were made.

He went on, adding that there were 10,200 police and 6,400 soldiers deployed across the region that includes the capital – prioritising stations, airports, large public spaces, government buildings, cultural sites, media companies and hospitals.

“The threat level remains raised,” said Cadot.

“We see a number of messages from Daesh (an alternative name for the Islamic State group) being broadcast on the Internet and which clearly target France.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is currently in the French capital for talks with Francois Hollande, where he said the two leaders had agreed to step up co-operation on countering international terrorism, including increased data-sharing and sharing of airline records.

“I firmly support the decisive action taken by President Hollande to strike Isil in Syria, it is my firm belief that we should do so too,” Mr Cameron said in a statement.

Mr Hollande said France planned to intensify its air strikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria.

“We will intensify our strikes, choosing targets that will do the most damage possible to this army of terrorists,” Mr Hollande added.

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