Brussels in lockdown after new shootings

Belgian police killed a gunman after several officers were wounded yesterday in a raid on a Brussels apartment linked to investigating November’s Islamist attacks in Paris, public broadcaster RTBF said.

Brussels in lockdown after new shootings

Two other suspects were being sought, it added.

But after five hours of intense police activity in the area, security forces escorted children away from nearby schools and kindergartens and began to allow residents back to homes in the suburban neighbourhood, Reuters journalists at the scene said.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor, leading the investigation, said one or more suspects barricaded themselves in an apartment after firing through a door at police who arrived to search it. Police said two officers were wounded then and another was hit later. Local media said four police were injured in total.

DH newspaper said one suspect was shot dead after being spotted from a police helicopter in a nearby garden.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French police took part in the raid in the Belgian capital. Streets around the house in the city’s southern borough of Forest were sealed off by police.

“This operation is connected to the Paris attacks,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor said.

Prime Minister Charles Michel met ministers and was expected to give a news conference later.

Reuters journalists heard gunshots as police commandos crowded into the street where the raid unfolded.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November 13 bombing and shooting rampage in Paris that killed 130 people were carried out by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

The area around yesterday’s raid, near a car factory and a major north-south railway linking Paris and Amsterdam, was sealed off, and a police helicopter buzzed overhead.

Police told residents to stay indoors and children were kept inside schools and kindergartens for hours into the evening.

Belgian security forces have been actively hunting suspects and associates of the militants involved in the attacks in Paris. Some of the attackers came from Brussels.

One of the prime suspects, 26-year-old Brussels-based Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run. He left Paris shortly after his brother blew himself up in the attacks. Belgian authorities are holding 10 people who have been arrested in the months since the attacks, mostly for helping Abdeslam.

RTBF quoted French police sources as saying Abdeslam had not been the target of Tuesday’s raid.

Soldiers were on streets in central Brussels yesterday as the operation continued.

Reuters

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