12 arrests in Belgian terror sweep
Belgian police, fearing a terror attack was close, detained 40 suspected terrorists, arresting 12.
Media speculation centered on attacks directed at soccer watching parties at pubs and restaurants as the Belgian national team competed in the European Soccer Championship.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said the nation would remain "extremely vigilant, hour by hour," but that the terror level across the nation would remain at the second-highest level, meaning a threat of an attack "is possible and likely." Belgium has been living under such a threat level since the November attacks in Paris, some of whose perpetrators were either Belgian nationals or had lived in Brussels. On March 22, attacks on the Brussels subway and airport killed 32.
"It will be the case in the coming hours that we will take additional and adapted measures," said Michel after a meeting of the nation's security council. He refused to elaborate on the nature of the threat.
The federal prosecutor's office said Saturday that homes and car ports were searched in 16 municipalities, mostly in and around Brussels There were no major incidents during the raids and that no arms or explosives were found.
At first, 40 people were taken in Friday night and early Saturday for interrogation, of which 12 were held. Late Saturday, three Belgian nationals were charged "as perpetrator or co-perpetrator, for having attempted to commit a terrorist murder and for participation in the activities of a terrorist group," a statement said. The nine others were let go.
The government remained on guard after Saturday's actions.
"It is not over. We remain under terror alert 3, it means that something is still up," Interior Minister Jan Jambon said. "Last night, we had a very successful action."
Belgium is paying the price for years of trying not to offend Muslims. As a result, they have been invaded by hundreds of jihadists who are using Brussels and the surrounding area as a base to attack France and other European countries. The actions being taken now should have been taken years ago.
In addition to the sweep, Belgian authorities stepped up security around 3 cabinet ministers, citing unspecified threats.
You have to wonder how many serious plots are being developed and whether the authorities are privy to all of them. In this case, they had apparently been keeping an eye on a couple of terror cells and felt they were about to launch an attack. The terror networks in Brussels could be sophisticated enough that they are able to hide weapons, explosives, and terrorists from police.
Did Belgium wake up in time? Any attack that occurs now could easily have been in the works since before the March 22 attack that has drawn this strong response from the government. They are not out of the woods yet and it remains to be seen whether Belgium authorities will continue to follow through and aggressively hunt the terrorists down.