Security forces search Belgian capital for two suspected terrorists; participant in France carnage said to be on loose

People posing for photos in front of a military vehicle next to the Grande Place square in central Brussels, November 21, 2015. (AFP/BELGA/Nicolas Maeterlinck)
People posing for photos in front of a military vehicle next to the Grande Place square in central Brussels, November 21, 2015. (AFP/BELGA/Nicolas Maeterlinck)


Security forces in the Belgian capital of Brussels were searching Saturday for two suspected terrorists, one of whom may be wearing an explosives belt, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported, as the city remained on terror lockdown in fear of a Paris-style attack.

A gunman wanted in the deadly rampage in the French capital a week ago is still on the run.

The Belgian capital closed its metro system and shuttered shops and public buildings as a terror alert was raised to its highest level over reports of an “imminent threat” of a gun and bomb attack similar to the horror seen in Paris.

Investigators are working around the clock to track Brussels resident Salah Abdeslam, one of the gunmen still on the loose after a coordinated wave of attacks on Parisian nightspots that left 130 people dead on November 13.

Belgium-based jihadists are increasingly at the heart of the Paris investigation and police have multiplied raids in the city’s immigrant districts in a rush to stop a repeat of Islamic State-inspired attacks that have killed hundreds around the world in recent weeks.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said authorities feared a “Paris-style” assault “with explosives and weapons at several locations” as he urged citizens to limit their movements.

The carnage in Paris has put all of Europe on edge amid fears that IS extremists can move operatives freely among target countries in an abuse of the EU’s open-border Schengen zone system.

In Turkey, police arrested a Belgian of Moroccan origin in connection with the Paris attacks in the resort of Antalya, the site of this week’s G20 summit, along with two other suspects, probably Syrians.

Ahmet Dahmani, 26, is accused of helping to scout the Paris attacks and then preparing to illegally cross the Turkish-Syrian border to rejoin IS after arriving in Turkey from Amsterdam on his Belgian passport.

The UN Security Council on Friday authorized nations to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic State IS jihadists after a wave of attacks across the world.

The UN resolution came after gunmen with an al-Qaeda branch run by a notorious one-eyed Algerian militant besieged a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako, killing 19 people, most of them foreigners.

Mali was struck a week after Paris and Beirut — where 44 people were killed in IS bombings — and three weeks after IS claimed to have downed a Russian plane in Egypt killing all 224 on board.

In grieving Paris, citizens defiantly poured on to cafe terraces Friday night to mark one week since the carnage, many observing a noisy minute of non-silence.

Outside La Belle Equipe restaurant, where 18 people were gunned down, a crowd stood under a light rain around flowers and candles singing the Marseillaise anthem before whooping and yelling at 9:20 p.m. (20:20 GMT), when the attacks started.

Benoit Seblain, drinking a beer at a cafe not far from the Bataclan, where 89 people were massacred at a rock concert, said Parisians must “live like we did before.”

The country has been shaken to its core by a dramatic week that began with the attacks and saw a violent shootout on Wednesday between police and jihadists holed up in a Paris apartment.

Suspected attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in the police assault along with his cousin Hasna Ait Houlahcen and an unidentified suicide bomber.

French police on Saturday released seven people arrested during the raid, but kept hold of Jawad Bendaoud, who has admitted lending the apartment to two people from Belgium “as a favor.”

Abaaoud was a notorious Belgian jihadist thought to be fighting in Syria, and his presence in Europe raised troubling questions about a breakdown in intelligence and border security.

The European Union agreed Friday to rush through reforms to the passport-free Schengen zone by the end of the year as France extended a ban on public gatherings until November 30 and the start of a UN climate summit.

Seven attackers were killed or blew themselves up during their assault on Paris.

Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, is believed to have fled to Belgium and a huge manhunt is underway to find him.

Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim blew himself up outside a Paris bar, may be equipped with a suicide belt, according to Hamza Attou, one of two suspects charged by Belgian authorities for allegedly helping Abdeslam return to Belgium after the attacks.

Attou’s lawyer Carine Couquelet told French TV channel LCI that her client has described Abdeslam as very nervous on the journey.

“There are many possible theories: Was [Salah] a logistical support, was he supposed to blow himself up? Was he not able to do it? We don’t know.”

As reported by The Times of Israel