Monday 23 April 2018

Terror attack on Euro 2016 fans foiled 'with just hours to spare'

Armed Belgian police officers on patrol. Photo: Reuters
Armed Belgian police officers on patrol. Photo: Reuters

Tom Morgan

A terror attack on fans watching Euro 2016 was foiled with just hours to spare, Belgian officials indicated yesterday, as 12 suspects were arrested.

Officers had initially picked up 40 people 'of interest' in swoops linked to an alleged plot to attack supporters in Brussels watching the Belgium and Ireland match.

It came after authorities warned of Isil commandos preparing "imminent" strikes in France and Belgium.

A jihadist cell was said to have left Syria a week ago to commit atrocities in both countries. Belgian police would not clarify if the overnight raids were linked to earlier alerts. The terror squad was plotting an attack yesterday, broadcaster VTM said, and suspects reportedly drove near a fanzone.

Last night the federal prosecutor's office said a terrorism case judge had detained three Belgian nationals aged 27, 29 and 40, charged with attempted "terrorist murder" and being part of a terrorist group.

A spokesman said: "The other nine persons that had been arrested, were questioned... and released." The prosecutor's office said no weapons or explosives were found in 152 searches.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir said other potential targets included shopping centres and stations. Security measures have been increased in Brussels, with body searches and a ban on bags or backpacks inside fanzones.

Islamist suicide bombers killed 32 people in the Belgian capital in March following attacks in Paris last November in which 130 people died.

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

Last week a police couple were stabbed to death at their home in Paris in an attack claimed by Isil. The next day a note to police from Belgium's anti-terror unit emerged with the warning: "Combatants are thought to have left Syria around a week and a half ago to reach Europe via Turkey and Greece."

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