Belgians rally against terror amid manhunt

Riot police surround the makeshift memorial to victims of the Brussels attacks as nationalist demonstrators disturb the peaceful rally on Place de la Bourse square in Brussels on March 27, 2016.
Riot police surround the makeshift memorial to victims of the Brussels attacks as nationalist demonstrators disturb the peaceful rally on Place de la Bourse square in Brussels on March 27, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
Rioters confront police near Place de la Bourse, who used cannons and pepper spray on them.
Rioters confront police near Place de la Bourse, who used cannons and pepper spray on them. ST PHOTO: TAN DAWN WEI
Riot police using water cannons on rioters at Roi Albert II Boulevard.
Riot police using water cannons on rioters at Roi Albert II Boulevard.ST PHOTO: TAN DAWN WEI
A rioter is arrested by the police.
A rioter is arrested by the police.ST PHOTO: TAN DAWN WEI

Police battle far-right protesters as hunt for 8 suspects continues; four detained after multiple raids

Police fought far-right protesters who turned up at a square in central Brussels yesterday, where people had gathered to mourn victims of Belgium's worst-ever terror attacks.

This was as Europe's security agencies hunted for eight suspects believed to have assisted in these and the Paris attacks in November, and Belgian police detained four suspects after 13 raids yesterday.

A solidarity march planned for yesterday had been postponed at the request of the authorities for safety reasons and to ease the load on the strained police force.

 
 

But far-right protesters showed up at the Place de la Bourse wearing black face masks and shouting anti- Muslim slogans. They were pushed out by police using water cannon. Some were arrested.

Among the mourners at the square, guarded by heavily armed police and soldiers, was Mr Mohamed Said Si Ahmed Haddi, 50, a Belgian from Algeria.

"I come here every evening and stay here until midnight in a gesture of solidarity," he told Agence France-Presse.

Last Tuesday's bomb attacks at the Brussels airport and a metro station killed 31 and injured 340 people, of whom 101 remained in hospital yesterday, 62 in intensive care.

Belgian prosecutors yesterday charged a second man linked to a foiled terror plot in France. Abderamane A. was shot in the leg by the police last Friday after a stand-off at a tram stop in Brussels.

The development comes a day after prosecutors brought similar charges on an accomplice and two other men for the Brussels attacks.

Italy's anti-terrorism police also captured Algerian Djamal Eddine Ouali, 40, in Bellizzi, a town in Salerno province in southern Italy, the ANSA news agency reported.

He is wanted in Belgium for allegedly providing false papers that allowed Salah Abdeslam, Mohamed Belkaid and Najim Laachroui to enter Brussels after their deadly Paris operation, hiding out here for months before the Belgian police tracked them down.

Belkaid was killed in a shoot-out with the police, while Abdeslam was arrested on March 18. Laachroui blew himself up at Brussels airport last Tuesday along with Ibrahim el-Bakraoui.

Police found Ouali's name on documents in a raid in a Brussels apartment last October, which included photos and aliases of some of the militants involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Apart from the four detained yesterday, a number of arrests had been made in earlier raids, including that of Faycal Cheffou, whom investigators believe is the man captured by surveillance cameras at Brussels airport wearing a hat. He was believed to have been on the run since the Tuesday attacks.

Cheffou was charged on Saturday over terrorism activities after police followed him and arrested him outside the federal prosecutor's office last Thursday night. Belgian media reported that Cheffou, said to be a freelance journalist, had been detained previously at a park when he tried to promote religious extremism to refugees camped there.

The airport, meanwhile, has installed temporary check-in desks and could reopen as early as tomorrow, after engineers said the structure of the building was stable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Clashes mar Brussels terror attack memorial'. Print Edition | Subscribe