16 arrested in anti-terror raids in Belgium

Brussels, Nov 23 (IANS) Belgian police arrested 16 people in anti-terror raids but suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam remains at large, the authorities said.

A total of 22 raids were carried out on Sunday across Brussels and Charleroi, BBC quoted Belgian prosecutor Eric van der Sypt as saying.

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Police fired two shots at a car during an operation in Molenbeek, injuring one suspect who was later arrested.

The raids were made following November 13 attacks in Paris that left at least 130 people killed and over 350 injured.

No weapons or explosives were found during the searches on Sunday, van der Sypt said.

Brussels remain on the highest level of terror alert, Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Universities, schools and metro also remained shut.

Brussels has been on a lockdown all weekend amid a manhunt for Abdeslam, who is suspected of being among the assailants in Paris attacks.

Michel said that authorities feared “an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could also possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations”.

BBC has matched an image released by French police with a photo on the arrival papers of a man who reached the Greek island of Leros on October 3.

French police have asked for more information about the man, who they say was the third suicide bomber to strike the Stade de France on November 13.

Earlier, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the danger to Belgium was not tied to Abdeslam alone.

“The threat is broader than the one suspected terrorist,” he said.

It was not clear if Jambon was referring to those involved in the Paris attacks, or others who might be planning attacks in Belgium.

Mohammed Abdeslam, the brother of Salah Abdeslam and Brahim Abdeslam who blew himself up in Paris, spoke to Belgian TV on Sunday to urge his brother to hand himself in.

The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the Paris attacks, claimed by Islamic State (IS).

French media reported that nine militants carried out the attacks, and seven died on Friday night.

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