- Police detain at least five with possible links to killings
- Rented VW Polo found near Bataclan concert hall was Belgian
Belgium detained at least five people with suspected links to the terror attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead, as police raids continued Saturday evening in Brussels.
Five people were arrested in the Brussels district of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, its mayor, Francoise Schepmans, said on RTBF public TV on Sunday. The neighborhood hosts the largest population of North African descent in the capital. Yesterday officials said at least three people had been detained in the neighborhood.
Two of the suspects are Belgians thought to have taken part in the Paris attacks, Belgian Interior Affairs Minister Jan Jambon said on VTM television on Saturday.
“Multiple arrests and search warrants have been executed,” Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutors’ office, told reporters at a press briefing Saturday evening.
Police detained a man who rented a gray Volkswagen Polo found close to the Bataclan concert hall where most of the Paris victims died, Minister of Justice Koen Geens said in an interview with RTBF. The car “was hired in Belgium and taken to Paris,” Van Der Sypt said.
Possible Belgian involvement emerged as security forces across Europe search for clues about the perpetrators of the attacks at seven locations in the French capital Friday night and whether they had support. Belgium has the highest number of fighters in Syria or Iraq per capita among western European countries, according to a report from the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalisation earlier this year.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said late Saturday that authorities raised the terror threat for sports or cultural events drawing large crowds to level 3 or “serious, probable” from “moderate, less probable,” according to public broadcaster RTBF. Michel said that means Belgium will consider deploying military staff to help police such events.
“In the past year we’ve had about every single month an attack or a foiled plot either in Belgium or France, which shows we’ve entered another chapter in European history in which stronger efforts to cooperate and share intelligence will be key,” Michel said earlier.
In January, Belgian police killed two suspected terrorists and arrested a third in a shootout in the eastern town of Verviers, preventing a possible “major” attack, authorities said. Belgian terrorism also made front page news last year when four people were killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a French gunman, who authorities said had spent most of 2013 in Syria.
While anti-terrorism tactics have started to pay off in smaller towns in Belgium, Jambon said Molenbeek still has “problems.”
“This has to stop,” Jambon told VTM Nieuws.