Brussels to stay at highest security alert, hunts suspects

With the world on edge over the jihadist threat, US President Barack Obama said the most powerful tool in the fight against IS was to say "that we're not afraid".

PTI| Last Updated: Nov 23, 2015, 01:36 AM IST

Brussels: Brussels will remain at the highest possible alert level tomorrow with schools and metros closed over a "serious and imminent" security threat in the wake of the Paris attacks, the Belgian prime minister said.

Armed police and troops have been patrolling the near deserted streets of the tense capital all weekend after the government raised the terror alert to the highest level of four in a city of one million that is also home to the NATO and European Union headquarters.

Following a meeting of the national security council today, Premier Charles Michel said the shutdown of the metro system would be extended and all schools would be closed over concerns that jihadists were planning a repeat of the Paris gun and suicide bombing attacks that claimed 130 lives on November 13.

"What we fear are similar attacks, with several individuals in several places."

Michel said the rest of the country would remain on security alert level three, meaning an attack is considered possible and the threat credible. "The threat is considered serious and imminent," he told reporters.

He said he was aware the situation was "very difficult for everyone".

"We are doing everything possible to return to normal life," he said, adding that officials would review the situation again tomorrow.

The historic Grand Place in central Brussels, usually bustling, was virtually empty at the weekend, with business badly hit in the run-up to Christmas as anxious residents heeded government warnings to stay at home.

Michel made no direct mention of the manhunt under way for several suspects linked to the carnage in Paris, including Salah Abdeslam who is thought to have slipped past French security forces after taking part in the attack, which has been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

With the world on edge over the jihadist threat, US President Barack Obama said the most powerful tool in the fight against IS was to say "that we're not afraid".

He added that he would go ahead with a visit to Paris for UN climate talks in December and called on other countries to show similar resolve.

As well as Obama, French President Francois Hollande is to meet world leaders in coming days including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's David Cameron to discuss the IS threat.

The UN Security Council on Friday authorised nations to "take all necessary measures" to fight jihadist violence after a wave of attacks, including the downing of a Russian aircraft in Egypt with the loss of 224 lives and the storming of a luxury hotel in Mali that left 19 dead.