Police release 3 after Brussels anti-terror raids

The gritty Molenbeek area was home to several of those who took part in the deadly Islamic State-claimed November 2015 attacks in Paris and the suicide bombings of Brussels airport and the metro in March 2016.
The gritty Molenbeek area was home to several of those who took part in the deadly Islamic State-claimed November 2015 attacks in Paris and the suicide bombings of Brussels airport and the metro in March 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgian police have released three people held overnight following anti-terror raids late Saturday (Jan 14) in Brussels, local prosecutors said.

Police mounted four raids in the Molenbeek district, which was home to several perpetrators of the militant attacks in Paris and Brussels, but found nothing, according to the Brussels prosecutor's office.

"Three men were arrested and questioned overnight... they were released afterwards," it said in a statement.

Media reports showed armed police setting up a security perimeter during the operation.

The gritty Molenbeek area has gained notoriety recently as the home of several of those who took part in the deadly ISIS-claimed November 2015 attacks in Paris and the suicide bombings of Brussels airport and the metro in March 2016.

Belgian authorities stepped up security after the killings and there have been periodic police raids and arrests since then as the investigations have continued.

Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, the only known jihadist to have survived the Paris massacres, hid in Molenbeek and was arrested there four months later, on March 18, 2016, four days before the attacks on the Belgian capital.

Some 20 people have been charged in Belgium in connection with the Paris attacks. Investigators say the Paris and Brussels attacks were carried out by the same cell.