Belgium's police arrest 12 people suspected of planning new attacks: Prosecutor

 A plainclothes police officer patrols near an apartment building during the reconstruction of the recent attacks, in the Brussels district of Etterbeek, Belgium, June 17, 2016.
A plainclothes police officer patrols near an apartment building during the reconstruction of the recent attacks, in the Brussels district of Etterbeek, Belgium, June 17, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Twelve people suspected of planning new attacks were arrested across Belgium overnight after the police carried out about 40 house searches in the country, the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement on Saturday (June 18).

"In connection with a criminal investigation concerning terrorism... 40 persons were taken for questioning. Twelve among them were arrested. The investigating judge will decide on their possible detention later today," the statement said.

Europe is on high alert as the Euro 2016 soccer tournament is under way in neighbouring France. Islamist suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels in March following attacks in Paris in November in which 130 people died.

Investigators have found links between the Brussels and Paris attackers, some of whom were based in Belgium.

Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said no weapons or explosives were found during the searches, which also involved 152 garage lock-ups.

A French police couple were stabbed to death outside their home on Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a video posted on social networks, the attacker linked it to the soccer tournament, saying: "The Euros will be a graveyard."

Flemish public broadcaster VTM said the people arrested overnight were suspected of planning an attack in Brussels this weekend during one of Belgium's soccer matches.

Belgian police on Wednesday received an anti-terror alert warning that a group of ISIS fighters recently left Syria en route for Europe planning attacks in Belgium and France, security officials said.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir said areas where fans watch matches were potential targets, as well as other crowded areas like shopping centres and stations, citing a security source.

Public broadcaster RTBF said the country's crisis centre on Friday placed several government ministers, including Prime Minister Charles Michel, under heightened protection.

On Friday, the police arrested and detained a man named as Youssef E.A, a Belgian national, on suspicion of taking part in terrorist activities in connection with the Brussels attacks.