Paris terror attacks: Reactions: Belgium

Seven arrested after raids in Brussels

Belgian police detaining a suspect during a raid in the Molenbeek quarter of Brussels.
Belgian police detaining a suspect during a raid in the Molenbeek quarter of Brussels. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • Belgian prosecutors yesterday said seven people had been held following raids in Brussels after the Paris attacks last Friday, and two of the assailants were Frenchmen who lived in Brussels.

Belgian police, in cooperation with the French authorities, carried out raids at the weekend after two cars with Belgian number plates were found in Paris, one near the Bataclan concert hall where the deadliest attack took place, and the other near Pere Lachaise.

Earlier, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said at least one of the suspects was arrested in the inner Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek last Saturday and was believed to have spent the previous evening in Paris. Molenbeek, west of the city centre, is home to many Muslims, notably families originally from Morocco and Turkey.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said the arrests were "in connection with a grey (Volkswagen) Polo car rented in Belgium" and found near the Bataclan site.

"The person who rented the car was Belgian. We know this from his brother," said Mr Geens, adding that the brother had been arrested.

Molenbeek has been connected with two attacks in France this year alone. Security officials said the Islamist militant who killed people at a Paris kosher grocery store in January, around the time of the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo, acquired weapons in the district.

So too did the man who was overpowered before he could kill anyone on a Thalys high-speed train from Brussels to Paris in August.

An alleged plot to attack Belgian police stations in January - which was broken up by raids in which two men were killed in the town of Verviers - had links to Molenbeek.

Belgium has the highest number of fighters in Syria or Iraq per capita among western European countries.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Seven arrested after raids in Brussels'. Print Edition | Subscribe