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france 24 Europe

Two suspects on the run after Brussels anti-terror raid

© Dirk Waem, Belga, AFP | A member of the special forces takes position on a roof near the site of a shootout during an anti-terror raid in Brussels on March 15, 2016

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-16

Belgian authorities are still hunting for two suspects following an anti-terror raid in Brussels linked to the November 13 Paris attacks, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

"Two people who were in the [raided apartment] were able to flee," Thierry Werts of the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office told a press conference on Wednesday.

Four police officers were lightly injured after coming under fire on Tuesday as they conducted what they had expected to be a routine search of an apartment in the Forest suburb of Brussels.

French police officials joined their Belgian counterparts in the raid, which was linked to the November 13 Paris attacks.

One gunman was killed in the shootout, who federal prosecutors identified as Mohamed Belkaid, a 35-year-old Algerian living illegally in Belgium.

"Next to the body was a Kalashnikov, a book on Salafism and an Islamic State flag," Werts said.

Although Belkaid had been living illegally in Belgium, he was known to the police since a 2014 case of theft.

Two suspects arrested in connection with the case, including one found in hospital with a broken leg, were later released without charge, prosecutors added.

Belgian media reported that the two missing suspects were brothers with links to terrorism but there was no immediate confirmation.

‘The threat remains’

Prime Minister Charles Michel summoned security and intelligence chiefs for an emergency sitting of Belgium's national security council on Wednesday evening to review the country's level of alertness and possible extra measures.

"The threat remains," Michel told RTL radio, adding that for now Belgium would be on level three, the second highest alert level.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days shortly after the Paris attacks because of fears of a major incident. Several of those involved in the Islamic State (IS) group shootings and suicide bombings were based in Belgium's capital.

Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular occurrence.

Shocking events in a quiet neighbourhood

People living in the Forest suburb of Brussels suffered hours of lockdown after the initial search turned into a firefight, and voiced shock at the turn of events in their quiet neighbourhood.

Schoolboy Maxime, 11, was at home sick when he heard gunfire and helicopters and saw masked commandoes on a rooftop. "They had a huge weapon," he said. "(I was) "very, very scared."

Belgian security forces have been actively hunting suspects and associates of the militants involved in the Paris attacks.

One of the prime suspects, 26-year-old Brussels-based Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run. He left Paris hours after his brother blew himself up outside a Paris café. Belgian authorities are holding 10 people who have been arrested in the months since the attacks, mostly for helping Abdeslam.

However, Belgian authorities said Abdeslam was not the subject of Tuesday’s raid.

Belgium, with a Muslim population of about five percent among its 11 million people, has the highest rate in Europe of citizens joining Islamist militants in Syria.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-03-16

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