Belgium deploys 300 soldiers after foiled terrorism plot

2015-01-17 13:22
Policemen and forensic police work into a marked up perimeter in Verviers, eastern Belgium, after two men were reportedly killed during an anti-terrorist operation. (Bruno Fahy, AFP)

Policemen and forensic police work into a marked up perimeter in Verviers, eastern Belgium, after two men were reportedly killed during an anti-terrorist operation. (Bruno Fahy, AFP)

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Brussels - The Belgian military has been called upon to provide security backup following a foiled terrorism plot, the government announced on Saturday.

Up to 300 soldiers will be deployed from Saturday in Brussels and the country's second largest city, Antwerp, according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Charles Michel.

They could also be stationed in the eastern city of Verviers, where two suspects were killed in a police raid on Thursday.

"The mobilized soldiers will be armed and their primary duty will be the surveillance of certain sites," the statement said, adding that they are providing reinforcement to the police.

The decision was taken in a cabinet meeting convened late Friday, at which ministers discussed measures to increase vigilance and security in light of the foiled terrorist plot. Belgium has been placed on alert level three, the second highest stage.

Thirteen people were detained in police raids across Belgium on Thursday, after it became clear that a group they had been monitoring was poised to commit a terrorist attack.

Of those, five appeared before a judge on Friday and were charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation, Belga news agency reported. Three were placed under arrest, and two were released, with conditions attached.

The eight remaining detainees have not yet been formally charged.

A man arrested in the Verviers raid, in which two suspects were killed after opening fire on police, has been identified as 25-year-old Marouane E, Belga reported.

He has denied any involvement in the alleged terrorist plot.

The suspects were planning to kill policemen in the streets and in police stations across Belgium, prosecutors said. Several of the group's members - most of whom are Belgian - had spent time in Syria.

The terrorist cell was reportedly being coordinated out of Greece, by a former fighter who had returned from Syria, according to Belgian broadcaster VTM.

Belgian daily La Derniere Heure identified him as a 27-year old Belgian man of Moroccan origin who had left for Syria to join the Islamic State militant group.

Belgian police learned about the plot by intercepting telephone conversations between him and the imprisoned brother of one of the suspects killed in Thursday's raid, the Flemish network reported.

Federal prosecutors refused Saturday to comment on these media reports, Belga wrote.

Read more on:    belgium  |  security

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