12 arrested in anti-terror raids by Belgium authorities worried an attack was near

Belgian police stand guard in the Etterbeek district of Brussels, where two terrorists lived before the March 22 attack on the city's subway.
Belgian police stand guard in the Etterbeek district of Brussels, where two terrorists lived before the March 22 attack on the city’s subway.
(Laurie Dieffembacq / AFP/Getty Images)

Belgian authorities have raided dozens of homes and arrested 12 suspects in a major anti-terror investigation that they said required “immediate intervention,” fearing an attack could have been close.

The federal prosecutor’s office said Saturday that homes and carports were searched in 16 municipalities, mostly in and around Brussels. The statement said there were no major incidents during the raids and that no arms or explosives were found.

It said 40 people were taken for interrogation and that 12 of them were arrested. A judge will rule on their continued detention later Saturday.

Across Belgium, parties were being planned to watch live broadcasts of the country’s soccer team playing Ireland in the European Championships in neighboring France, and some media said such events could have been the targets.


The federal prosecutor’s office refused to elaborate on that possibility.

“I’m very happy our services are trying to anticipate things as much as possible,” said Justice Minister Koen Geens.

The operation came as Belgium remains under its second-highest terror alert in the wake of the March 22 attacks on the Brussels subway and airport, which left 32 people dead.

“It is not over. We remain under terror alert 3, it means that something is still up,” Interior Minister Jan Jambon told the VRT network. “Last night, we had a very successful action.”

The prosecutor’s office statement said that “the results of the investigation necessitated an immediate intervention,” indicating a violent attack was likely planned in the near future.

The office did not link the raids to the March 22 attacks, even though an eighth suspect was arrested as part of the investigation of those attacks late Friday. The Belgian man, identified as Youssef E.A., was charged with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders and attempts to terrorist murders.”

At the same time, four top ministers, including Prime Minister Charles Michel, Geens and Jambon, received special protection following unspecified threats. “We learned about that late yesterday that this close protection would happen. They say there are good reasons for that,” Geens said.


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4:07 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional details and background.

This article was originally published at 1:19 a.m.