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france 24 France

Belgian police alerted to IS group fighters ‘en route to Europe’

Text by FRANCE 24 , Xavier Leoty, AFP | French elite police units carry out terror attack exercises in southwestern France on May 30, 2016

Latest update : 2016-06-15

Belgian police have alerted their French counterparts over an alleged group of Islamic State (IS) group jihadists en route to Europe to carry out terror attacks in the two countries.

Belgian police received an alert warning that the armed militants left Syria about a week and a half ago, and had planned to reach Europe by boat via Turkey and Greece.

The story was widely circulated in the Belgian press on Tuesday morning, but the crisis centre in charge of coordinating the country’s security responses said there were no immediate plans to raise the security level to its maximum of four.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Meabh McMahon said the alert also included information about possible targets in Belgium. “A number of venues were identified, including a non-identified American fast-food restaurant, a shopping mall or a police station,” she said from the capital of Brussels.

A source at France’s interior ministry said investigators were currently reviewing the information in the alert. “We know the threat is very high,” the source said. “We’re reviewing all the elements (in the alert).”

Belgian daily DH said the fighters were ordered to split into two units, one aiming to carry out attacks in Belgium, the other in France.

It mentioned no specific targets in France, which is hosting the Euro 2016 football championships in 10 stadiums across the country until July 10.

The alert came two days after an attacker who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group killed a French police commander and his partner at their home outside Paris.

“Belgian police forces have been advised that they are allowed to take their weapons back home. They are all obviously thinking about that atrocity on Monday night in Paris,” McMahon said.

No change in security level

Belgian authorities raised the threat level for Brussels to the maximum number shortly after the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, and after suicide bombers killed 32 people at Brussels airport and on the city’s metro on March 22.

The status was lowered on each occasion after a few days.

Belgian police have arrested a number of men suspected of direct or indirect involvement in the Paris and Brussels attacks.

A spokesman for the Belgian crisis centre said that despite the latest alert, the body that sets the security level did not have any indication of an “imminent threat” – which would prompt raising the terror alert level to four.

“When you talk to terrorism experts here in Belgium they say there is no need to cause alarm, but they also remind (people) that some 611 Belgians have actually travelled to either Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State group,” FRANCE 24's McMahon added.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-06-15

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