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Belgium Authorities Arrest 12 during Anti-Terrorism Raids | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Belgian soldier stands guard outside the prime minister’s office building during a meeting of the government’s security council in Brussels, Belgium, June 18, 2016. — Reuters

Brussels – Authorities in Belgium arrested 12 suspects as part of a large anti-terror investigation that involved raiding 40 homes in 16 municipalities within Brussels.

The raids happened following information about a new terrorist cell linked to al-Bakraoui brothers, involved in the Brussels and Molenbeek terrorist attacks.

Sources revealed that phone calls between members of the terrorist cell indicated they were planning attack over the weekend. Evidence also revealed that people arrested were suspected of planning an attack in Brussels this weekend during one of Belgium’s soccer matches.

Raids were conducted in 40 houses and 152 locked-up garages in 16 Belgian municipalities where police arrested 12 of the 40 detained. No arms or explosives were found during the raids.

Belgian National Security Council convened under the leadership of Belgian Prime Minister Charles on Saturday to discuss terrorism fears. Michel told the press after the crisis meeting that Belgian authorities will remain “extremely vigilant, hour by hour.”

“Over the coming hours we are going to take additional and updated security measures,” added Michel, but he added that public events planned in the coming days would go ahead, declaring: “We want to continue living normally.”

Earlier, Belgian police received an anti-terror alert warning that a group of fighters had recently left Syria en route for Europe planning attacks in Belgium. Media reports commented on this information saying they are not clear as the source hasn’t been identified.

The Belgian Crisis Center in charge of coordinating security responses decided not to raise the security level to the maximum that would indicate an imminent threat of attack. The center believes that the situation didn’t reach the fourth security level, meaning there is a terrorist scheme.

Local media reported that not raising the security level to its maximum means there are no specified target places.

Sources revealed that in case of confirmed terrorist threat, the army can deploy about 1500 soldier to protect Brussels.

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Flemish TV station VTM that the government had instated 500 million Euros for security, something the previous government didn’t do. De Croo statement comes in response to critical claims by John Crombez Head of Socialist Party Differently that government is not allocating more money for security.

Deputy Prime Minister said that it is very important to take care of internal and external security.

Following the Paris attack in November 2015, Belgian government allocated additional 400 million Euros for security and counter terrorism. The security measures also included deploying 520 soldiers to enhance internal security.

Amnesty international issued a report in February 2016 saying that the government introduced several proposals to combat terrorism and decided to set 300 million Euros of its 400 million Euros budget for counter terrorism after Paris attacks.