Discarded suicide belt found in France as Brussels alert continues

2015-11-24 06:09
Police patrol near  the Arc de Triomphe. (Frank Augstein, AP)

Police patrol near the Arc de Triomphe. (Frank Augstein, AP)

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Paris - An explosive suicide belt was discovered in a rubbish bin south of Paris, French authorities confirmed to dpa, while the Belgian government ordered the highest security alert for a week.

The terrorism threat level for Belgium's capital will be maintained at the maximum level of 4, though schools and the Brussels subway system will start reopening on Wednesday, Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Monday.

The announcement came shortly after Belgian prosecutors said that a fourth person had been placed under arrest on terrorism charges in connection with the shootings and bombings in which 130 people were killed November 13 in Paris.

Suicide belt

French prosecutors said the discarded suicide belt was found on Monday in the municipality of Montrouge, less than 5km from central Paris.

The site is near the Chatillon area, where a mobile telephone belonging to now most-wanted fugitive Salah Abdeslam, 26, whose brother was among the slain Paris attackers, was tracked on the night of the attacks. A French resident of Brussels, he is believed to have taken part in the Paris attacks.

French broadcaster BFMTV reports that the belt contained both explosives and metal pieces designed as shrapnel, similar to devices used in the attacks.

Many of the Paris attackers had ties to Brussels.

The country's co-ordinating unit for threat analysis, an independent organisation known as OCAM, has received information from security services suggesting "a serious and imminent threat for Brussels, possible and likely for the rest of the country", Michel said.

"We have serious indications that ... attacks on different locations at the same time can take place," he said.

‘Stay calm’

Michel said that high-traffic areas such as shopping districts and public transportation facilities remain potential targets, but called on the population to "stay calm."

The government is determined to restore life in Brussels to normal, he said. While the next security review is scheduled for November 30, schools will reopen Wednesday with unspecified extra security measures.

The newspaper Le Soir reported that Education Minister Joelle Milquet had recommended surveillance of school entrances, limiting gatherings in front of schools and considering the creation so-called safe rooms where teachers and pupils could take refuge in case of emergency.

The Brussels underground, which has been at a standstill since Saturday, will gradually reopen starting on Wednesday, Michel said.

Police carried out a major sweep on Sunday night in the capital and the southern city of Charleroi, detaining 16 people.


One suspect, who was not identified, was placed under arrest on Monday for having played a role in the Paris attacks and participating in the activities of a terrorist group, prosecutors said.

The 15 other individuals were released after questioning.

"It is not uncommon during large-scale search operations like the one last night to bring in several people merely for thorough questioning or to clarify why they were found on the searched premises," the statement said.

Another five people were taken into custody Monday morning during police searches in the regions of Brussels and the eastern city of Liege. Two were released within hours, while a magistrate will decide on Tuesday whether the other three should remain in detention.

Four people have now been placed under arrest in Belgium on terrorism charges since the Paris attacks, including two men who reportedly brought Abdeslam to the Brussels area.

Read more on:    belgium  |  france  |  security  |  paris under attack

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