Belgian security and special operations units raided a string of apartments in the eastern town of Verviers and Brussels Thursday, Jan. 15. They searched for native jihadis who had returned from Syria and formed cells to carry out what federal prosecutors called terrorist attacks “on a grand scale” across the country similar to the terrorist violence that swept Paris last week.
In Verviers, two jihadis described by police as linked to ISIS, were killed and one arrested, after they opened fire on the forces. Explosions and gunshots were heard from the clash. One police source said that the raids of 10 apartments, where the cells were actively plotting those attacks, had “averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo.”
Still, the terror alert in Belgium has been elevated from three to four.
The raids took place the day after the French satirical magazine, which lost its top editorial staff in last week’s Islamist terror violence, came out in 16 languages and millions of copies, with a weeping Prophet Mohammed on its cover.
Belgian officials Thursday night declined to release details of the country-wide crackdown on Islamist terrorists, but promised more information Friday. However, French and British official sources report a Europe-wide terror alert in force. Since it became known that Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered four Jews in a Paris supermarket, had obtained arms from Belgium, a wide net has been cast across the continent to turn up links among terrorist cells.
Furthermore, European security services are apparently united in a campaign to black out most of their counter-terror operations. They are also striving to keep dark the terrorist or jihadist motives behind certain violent attacks. Britain and France appeared to be resorting to this strategy in an effort to damp down frictions between the general populations and their Muslim communities.