Special operations over in Brussels, 16 arrests and massive troops presence reported (VIDEO)
Belgian security forces launched a massive-scale operation in Brussels on Sunday evening, arresting 16 people. Authorities asked the public not to report on their movements after a number of images showing heavy police presence were posted on social media.
Police arrested 16 people during a string of anti-terror raids in Belgium, the country’s public prosecutor, Eric Van Der Sypt, announced. One of the people arrested was wounded, he added.
However, Belgian forces failed to find Salah Abdeslam, one of the key suspects in the November 13 Paris terror attacks, who was believed to be on the loose in Belgium.
“We can stress that no weapons or explosives were found. Abdeslam Salah was not found during the raids,” Van Der Sypt said, as quoted by Reuters.
A total of 19 raids were carried out in Brussels and three houses were searched in Charleroi, south of the capital.
The police crisis center announced that operations were over in Brussels sometime after 11 pm (10 pm GMT) local time.
Thanks to the media and citizens for their silence online as asked during the juridicial intervention tonight #BrusselsLockdown— CrisisCenter Belgium (@CrisiscenterBE) November 22, 2015
Unconfirmed reports by DH.de suggest that six suspects were arrested during the operation, with one wounded. Those arrested reportedly did not include Salah Abdeslam, the Paris attack terror suspect.
Belgian news agency RTBF reported that several arrests were made elsewhere, including the detention of one man in the region of Charleroi.
Brussels Grand Place - troops, APCs , Christmas lights pic.twitter.com/HfkXFsosGS— alex thomson (@alextomo) November 22, 2015
Authorities said they will hold a press conference at 00:30 local time (23:30 Sunday GMT).
Earlier, Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput asked the public on Twitter “not to report their movements on social media” using the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown,
Police are asking the public not to report their movements on social media, please support & rt #BrusselsLockdown— Steven Vandeput (@svandeput) November 22, 2015
“For safety, please observe radio silence on social media about ongoing police operations,” police press-service posted on Twitter.
Residents in central Brussels were told to stay away from windows, and hotel guests were asked to stay inside.
Several central streets in Brussels were cordoned off, while another “large” police deployment was reported in the Etterbeek municipality near the capital.
“Many people, police asked everyone to leave further apart, no explanation as to why,” a Belgian VRT reporter said on Twitter, posting an image of armed law enforcement in the street.
Veel pers, politie vraagt iedereen om verder weg te gaan staan, geven geen verklaring waarom pic.twitter.com/E0ovBVSTjF— rob heirbaut (@heirbar) November 22, 2015
Helicopters have been seen flying over some areas around Brussels, RTL reported, citing witnesses. Police presence has also been reported in Etterbeek, the media said, adding that the Interior Ministry has asked journalists not to give the precise locations of the areas where special forces are deployed.
Authorities said they will hold a press conference when the operations are finished.
The highest level of alert will remain in effect for Brussels on Monday, Belgium’s prime minister announced on Sunday, saying that there is a threat of coordinated, multiple, Paris-like attacks. Brussels has been at the center of an investigation into the Paris attacks, as several of the assailants came from Belgium, and one of the suspected attackers is believed to have returned.