Belgian capital on high alert

Brussels central train station was evacuated for about an hour yesterday because of a suspicious suitcase amid heightened security fears in the Belgian capital after a huge anti-terror operation led to three men being charged with terrorism offences.

The suitcase later turned out to be a false alarm but shows Belgium’s high state of alert, three months after Islamist bombers killed 32 people in Brussels.

Belgian police searched 40 houses and 152 garage lockups between Friday night and Saturday, arresting 12 people following reports of possible attacks targeting soccer fans watching the matches in Brussels. They later released nine.

The three Belgian men charged with “having attempted to commit a terrorist murder and for participation in the activities of a terrorist group” were identified by prosecutors only as 27-year-old Samir C., 40-year-old Moustapha B., and 29-year-old Jawad B.

Belgian media reported they had links to the men prosecutors believe carried out the Brussels twin bombings in March, brothers Ibrahim (‘Brahim’) and Khalid El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui.

Without citing sources, the RTBF television channel said police listened to phone conversations between the three men in which they said they planned attacks on soccer fans in Brussels over the weekend.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said only that the investigation required immediate action.

Prime Minister Charles Michel appealed to the country to stay calm after chairing a meeting of the government’s security council on Saturday.

On Friday police arrested and detained a 30-year-old man named as Youssef E.A, a Belgian national, on suspicion of taking part in terrorist activities in connection with the Brussels attacks.

The man worked at Brussels airport and had access to planes on the tarmac, said broadcaster RTBF and newspaper Le Soir, citing judiciary sources.


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