Twelve arrests as Belgium swoops on terror suspects

Police in Belgium have made 12 arrests in a huge anti-terror operation, nearly three months after the deadly bomb attacks on Brussels.

Those detained overnight are suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, prosecutors say. They were among 40 taken in for questioning.

Searches were conducted in 16 municipalities, mainly around Brussels, with checks on 152 lock-up garages.

On 22 March, bombs killed 32 people at a Brussels airport and a metro station.

No arms or explosives were found during the searches, which passed off without incident, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

Among the areas where searches took place was Molenbeek, a Brussels district which has become notorious because of its associations with jihadists.

The federal prosecutor said the operation had been launched after investigations which “necessitated an immediate intervention”.

However, the Belgian government has not raised the threat level.

There were several warnings of new attacks in recent days.

On Friday evening, four federal ministers including Prime Minister Charles Michel were placed under heightened police protection along with their families, Belgian media report.

Belgian police are said to have recently received a warning that a group of militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group had left Syria en route for Europe, planning new attacks in Belgium and France.

An unnamed security source was quoted by Belgian newspaper DH (in French) on Wednesday as saying the group had “left Syria about a week-and-a-half ago aiming to reach Europe via Turkey and Greece by boat without passports”.

Meanwhile, a Belgian national named as Youssef EA was arrested on Friday and charged on suspicion of terrorist activities in connection with the March attacks, which were claimed by IS.

Belgian media report that he is the eighth person to have been charged over the attacks, which were carried out by three suicide bombers.

Investigators have established connections between the Brussels bombers and the IS attacks on Paris on 13 November, in which 130 people were killed.

Several of the Paris bombers came from Belgium and some of the bombs were made in a flat in Brussels.

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