16 Jan 2015

Five charged over Belgium ‘terror plot to kill police’

Five people have been charged after major counter-terrorism raids in Belgium that started on Thursday evening and left two suspects dead.

Above: police carry out forensics at a bakery in Verviers.

The five have been charged with “participating in the activities of a terrorist group”, the prosecutor’s office told the AFP news agency. Officials had said there was an “imminent” threat from suspected jihadists to kill police officers. Earlier, Belgium’s government announced tough new measures to tackle terrorism.

Eric Van Der Sypt, an official at the prosecutors’ office, told AFP that three of the five charged suspects were still in custody while the other two had been conditionally released.

In the town of Verviers officers came under fire when trying to raid a bakery on Thursday. Two of the alleged gunmen were killed and a third man was arrested.

The two deceased have not yet been identified.

In a press conference on Friday state prosecutors said they had found the guns, explosives and uniforms at a Verviers apartment.

There was no apparent links with the Paris attacks in which 17 people died last week, the press conference heard.

‘Logistical support’

At the same time as the Belgian operation, police in Germany and France also launched counter terrorist operations.

French police arrested twelve suspects overnight and questioned them about any “logistical support” they may have given the gunmen who carried out the Paris terror attacks.

A source in the judiciary told AFP that suspects were questioned over what assistance they may have provided for the attack in which 17 died, such as providing weapons.
There were also reports on Friday morning that the Gare de l’Est station in Paris was evacuated following a bomb threat.

Police have been searching five towns in the ongoing operation following last week’s attack – which began with the assault on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Copies of the “survivors’ issue” of Charlie Hebdo went on sale in the UK on Friday morning.

John Kerry met with French President Francois Hollande on Friday to offer US support, and visited the kosher supermarket where hostages were held last week.

Berlin raid

Two men were also arrested in a series of raids in the German capital Berlin. Authorities said 250 police officers were involved in the operation, which followed a month-long investigation into men linked to the Syrian conflict.

Special forces in Berlin

Above: German special forces outside an apartment building in Berlin

The arrests followed investigations which have been going on for several months into five Turkish citizens aged 31 to 44, who are suspected of “preparing a serious act of violence against the state in Syria” and money laundering, police said.

Police said they stormed 11 properties linked to radical Islamic Salafists in the operation.