Belgium Charges Three Amid Reports of Plot to Attack Soccer Fans

  • Prime minister appeals for calm, pledges to ‘continue fight’
  • Country on alert three months after suicide bombings killed 32

Belgian police officers stand guard in the district of Etterbeek, in Brussels, on Friday, June 17, 2016.

Photographer: Laurie Dieffembacq/AFP via Getty Images

Belgian authorities charged three people in connection with a suspected terror plot amid a broadcast report of a plan to attack fans gathering to watch the national soccer team.

The trio of Belgian citizens were accused of “having attempted to commit a terrorist murder and for participation in the activities of a terrorist group,” Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in an e-mail Saturday.

The country’s terror alert will remain at level 3 out of 4, Belgium’s government said earlier Saturday, after security forces raided properties across the country and arrested 12 people. The prosecutor didn’t confirm a report by broadcaster VTM that the terrorists were planning to attack fans -- possibly on Saturday -- while Belgium’s soccer team played in the Euro 2016 tournament.

Counterterrorism forces across Europe have increased security during the soccer championships, particularly in France where the tournament is taking place until July 10.

Prosecutors identified those charged as Samir C., born on Jan. 13, 1989; Moustapha B., born on March 14, 1976; and Jawad B., born on March 3, 1987. The other nine people who were arrested during the overnight raids were released without charge, prosecutors said.

Prime Minister Charles Michel called for calm and said public events will go ahead with heightened security. 

“The security services have obviously been extremely vigilant,” Michel told reporters in Brussels after an emergency meeting with Cabinet members and counterterror chiefs. “We will continue our fight against extremism, against radicalism, against terrorism.”

In total, police questioned 40 people during raids on Friday night and Saturday morning. No arms or explosives were found, the prosecutor said.

Belgium has been on a high state of alert since terrorists allied to the Islamic State group killed 32 people in suicide bombings at Brussels airport and on the city’s subway. The federal government has deployed soldiers on streets around prominent buildings and introduced increased security checks for travelers and commuters.

Security Protection

Since Friday evening, several members of Belgium’s federal government, including Prime Minister Michel, have been subject to heightened security protection, broadcaster RTBF said, without saying where it got the information. The overnight anti-terror raids were not linked to the threat to politicians, RTBF said.

A Belgian citizen, identified only as Youssef E.A., born on Aug. 4, 1985, was arrested and detained in connection with the March attacks, the federal prosecutor said in a statement sent by e-mail late Friday.

Separately, a French terror probe is under way after Larossi Abballa, who swore allegiance to Islamic State, stabbed a policeman and his partner to death on Monday and may have planned similar attacks on rap stars, public figures and the media, according to investigators.

Abballa, the attacker, was killed by police inside the couple’s house near Paris.

The Paris prosecutor on Saturday said it’s investigating and requesting detention of two other individuals, Charaf-Din Aberouz and Saad Rajraji, following the slaying. Aberouz, Rajraji and Abballa had been convicted in 2013 in a previous terror case.

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