Brussels Placed on High Alert, Officials Warn of ‘Serious and Imminent’ Threat
Brussels, the capital of Belgian, has been put on high alert with officials warning citizens of a "serious and imminent" threat similar to the attacks on Paris a week ago. The threat level has been categorized as top level "four."
"The result of relatively precise information pointed to the risk of an attack along the lines of what took take place in Paris," Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference on Saturday reported by Reuters. "We are talking about the threat that several individuals with arms and explosives would launch an attack perhaps in several locations at the same time."
The prime minister did not go into details about the threat but fears arose after suspect Salah Abdelsam, 26, reportedly returned to Brussels from Paris. His older brother, Ibrahim, who had blown himself up outside of a Paris café and a fellow suicide bomber, Bilal Hadfi, lived in Brussels. The suspected ringleader behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who died in the Saint-Denis raid Wednesday, was also from Brussels.
In reaction to the threat, the city has closed down the entire metro. Major shopping areas were opened Saturday morning with the majority of them planning on closing by midday. Soldiers have been stationed at these shopping centers as well as in several areas of the city, which include the institutions of the European Union. The Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, stated that 1,000 troops will be available for patrol.
The government's crisis center has also advised people to avoid popular public areas where a lot of people might typically gather. Museums and concerts have all been closed or canceled. City officials were recommended to cancel large events, such as soccer matches.
"We ask you to remain peaceful and avoid panic," Michel added. "It is a serious situation and we are trying with the security forces to do everything to keep the situation under control."
The Paris attacks, which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for, left 129 people dead and more than 300 injured.
Government officials will be reviewing the threat on Sunday afternoon.