Terror attacks

Europe on edge over fear of more attacks

Military police soldiers patrol the Brussels Airport on Nov 18, 2015 in Zaventem, eastern Brussels.
Military police soldiers patrol the Brussels Airport on Nov 18, 2015 in Zaventem, eastern Brussels.PHOTO: AFP

Capital cities across Europe are gripped by fears of further terror attacks, with the authorities tightening security, deploying more police and activating anti-terrorism plans.

Earlier this week, a video from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) warned European countries and the United States of further attacks after ISIS-linked militants killed 129 people in Paris. Washington, Rome and London were specifically mentioned as targets by ISIS on Twitter as well.

Belgian police arrested nine people in Brussels yesterday in nine raids connected to the Paris attacks, prosecutors said. Seven of the arrests were made during six raids "linked to Bilal Hadfi", a suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the French national stadium during the Paris attacks last Friday, prosecutors said.

They said the raids targeted places involving Hadfi's family, friends and other people directly linked to him. The raids were conducted in Brussels as well as the suburbs of Uccle, Jette and Molenbeek, which is dubbed a haven for extremists.

The other two arrests were also linked to last Friday's attacks, the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Adding to tensions across the continent, Italy is looking for five terror suspects after a tip-off from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about possible militant attacks on landmark sites including St Peter's cathedral in the Vatican, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said yesterday. The government raised the security alert level to two, the highest possible in the absence of a direct attack on the country.

Italian armed forces have assigned 700 extra soldiers to protect Rome, and a senior municipal official said patrols would be set up in almost every underground train station and other public places.

The minister appealed for calm after the FBI alert was plastered all over Italy's front pages yesterday. "We must not become prisoners of this alarm because that would be a gift to Daesh," he said, using the Arabic term for ISIS.

Sweden's security police raised their terrorist threat assessment to its highest level on Wednesday, saying they were hunting a suspect and had "concrete information" of a possible attack. Across the country, the threat level was raised one notch to four, on a scale of five, meaning there was a high probability that "persons have the intent and ability to carry out an attack".

Swedish police said they had increased their presence in "strategic and public places", including foreign embassies. Local Swedish news agency Six, citing an unnamed source, said an Iraqi man who had received military training in Syria entered Sweden on Wednesday with the intention of carrying out an attack.

The security police declined to comment on the report.

Danish police increased their security readiness on Wednesday to the second-highest of five levels. Norway also activated some of its anti-terrorism plans.

In the US, New York City police said they were aware of a new ISIS video targeting their sprawling metropolis, but stressed there was "no current or specific threat".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Europe on edge over fear of more attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe