Terror arrests sweep Europe after Belgium foils plot to kill police

French, German and Belgian police arrested more than two dozen suspects in anti-terrorism raids on Friday, as European authorities rushed to thwart more attacks by people with links to Islamic extremists in the Mideast.

PTI| Last Updated: Jan 17, 2015, 00:23 AM IST
Terror arrests sweep Europe after Belgium foils plot to kill police

Brussels: French, German and Belgian police arrested more than two dozen suspects in anti-terrorism raids on Friday, as European authorities rushed to thwart more attacks by people with links to Islamic extremists in the Mideast.

Rob Wainwright, head of the police agency Europol, told The Associated Press that foiling terror attacks has become "extremely difficult" because Europe's 2,500-5,000 radicalized Muslim extremists have little command structures and are increasingly sophisticated.

Highlighting the fears, a bomb scare forced Paris to evacuate its busy Gare de l'Est train station during today's morning rush hour. No bomb was found. A man also took two hostages at a post office in Colombes northwest of Paris, but police said the hostage-taker had mental issues and no links to terror.

Visiting the tense French capital, US Secretary of State John Kerry met President Francois Hollande and toured the sites of last week's terror attacks: the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Twenty people, including the three gunmen, were killed.

One of those Paris attackers had proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, and French and German authorities arrested at least 14 other people Friday suspected of links to same terror group.

Thirteen more people were detained in Belgium and two were arrested in France in a separate anti-terror sweep following a firefight Thursday in the eastern Belgian city of Verviers. Two suspected terrorists were killed and a third wounded in that raid on a suspected terrorist hideout. Federal magistrate Eric Van der Sypt said Friday the suspects were within hours of implementing a plan to kill police on the street or in their offices.

Belgian authorities searching Friday for more suspects in more than a dozen raids found four military-style weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles, Van der Sypt said. They also found several police uniforms, which could have allowed the suspects to pass themselves off as police officers.

The authorities said they were reasonably confident they dismantled the core of an important terrorist cell, including the architects of the suspected plot, but Van der Sypt said more suspects could be at large.

"I cannot confirm that we arrested everyone in this group," he told reporters.

Belgian authorities did not give many details about those detained or killed but said most were Belgian citizens and some had returned from Syria. They stressed that the targets of their crackdown had no known connections to last week's attacks in France.