Belgium deploys hundreds of troops

Written by on January 18, 2015 in Europe - Comments Off on Belgium deploys hundreds of troops

Security was significantly increased Saturday in Belgium, Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe, following raids in which dozens of suspected Islamic terrorists were arrested.

Thousands of police are spread out across Belgium guarding possible terror targets, including buildings within the Jewish quarter of the port city of Antwerp. Soldiers are also guarding installations in the capital, Brussels, including the Jewish museum.

Up to 300 members of the military will be stationed at locations such as the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Brussels and NATO and EU institutions. Troops will reinforce police at least until Thursday, when authorities will review the national threat level, set at 3 on a scale of 4 this week.

“It’s very important to say that this wasn’t a simple decision. But it was necessary, at a time when police are overly engaged, for the army to enter in a supporting role,” Defense Minister Steven Vandeput told reporters.

On Thursday, two gunmen were killed in the Belgian town of Verviers during raids on an Islamist group that authorities said was planning to attack police. Police said some members of the group had returned from Syria. Related raids across the country resulted in arrests of 13 others, Belgian officials said.

On Saturday, Greek police said they had detained at least four people for questioning in connection with the foiled plot in Belgium. A police source said authorities were seeking to determine whether the four included Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the group that Belgian police raided Thursday.

Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin was thought to have been hiding in Greece.

It wasn’t clear whether the Belgian group was linked to the recent terrorist attacks in France that left 17 people dead.

In Germany, security was increased at transport sites, including the Dresden train station. Police said they had arrested two men in Berlin on suspicion they were recruiting fighters for the Islamic State group in Syria.

The suspects were detained Friday during a series of raids by more than 200 police officers on 12 properties in the German capital.

In Ireland, police arrested a suspected French-Algerian militant at Dublin Airport when he tried to enter the country using a false passport.

Around Paris, police arrested 12 people with suspected ties to the gunmen carried out last week’s attacks in the French capital.

Source: VOANews.com

(Photo of Belgian defence minister Steven Vandeput: vandeput.belgium.be)

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