Belgium, Germany, France conduct anti-terror raids
Brussels wraps up operation; 12 people allegedly linked to the Paris market killer detained in France; 2 suspects held near Berlin
Belgian police have wrapped up a major anti-terror operation in which two suspected Islamist militants who were alleged to be planning imminent attacks were shot dead, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Friday.
“Operations on the ground are now over. We are now exploiting the information” from the deadly raid in the town of Verviers and other searches around Belgium, he told France’s iTele news channel.
“The threat was to the police forces,” he said of the planned attacks.
Meanwhile, Germany arrested two suspects said to be plotting an attack in Syria, and 12 people were detained in France on suspicion that they were linked to the Paris supermarket killer.
Hundreds of Berlin police raided 11 residences at dawn Friday, taking two Turkish men into custody on suspicion of recruiting fighters and procuring equipment and funding for the Islamic State group in Syria.
Martin Steltner, a spokesman for Berlin prosecutors, told The Associated Press the raids, which involved 250 police officers, were part of a months-long investigation into a small group of Turkish extremists based in Berlin.
The group’s leader, identified only as 41-year-old Ismet D. in accordance with privacy laws, is accused of recruiting largely Turkish and Russian nationals to fight against “infidels” in Syria. Emin F., 43, is accused of being in charge of finances.
Those recruited include Murat S., a 40-year-old Turkish man who was arrested in September 2014 after returning from Syria, where he allegedly had gone to fight.
Authorities said there’s no evidence they were planning attacks inside Germany, but that they procured funding to help send fighters to Syria, as well as military matériel such as night-vision equipment.
Steltner added that an additional three men remained under investigation, but authorities did not yet have enough evidence to take them into custody.
The spokesman claimed that the arrests were unrelated to the recent attacks in Paris or to raids in Belgium.
“It’s just coincidence,” he said.
In an unrelated raid, police in Wolfsburg, about 200 km (120 miles) west of Berlin, took a 26-year-old German-Tunisian dual national into custody on Thursday on suspicion he had fought in Syria for the Islamic State in 2014.
Federal prosecutors said there was no evidence the suspect Ayub B., who was to be brought before a judge Friday, was planning any attacks.
In France, the Paris prosecutor’s office said 12 people have been arrested in anti-terrorism raids, targeting people linked to a gunman who attacked a kosher supermarket — killing four Jewish men — and claimed ties to the Islamic State.
Spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said the arrests began overnight and continued in three towns Friday morning.
Authorities were on high alert in France and neighboring Belgium, where authorities moved swiftly Thursday night to preempt what they called a major impending attack.
The prosecutor’s office added that Friday’s raids around Paris were linked to Amedy Coulibaly, one of three gunmen involved in France’s worst terrorist attacks in decades.
Authorities in France and several countries are looking for possible accomplices.
Paris police said the Gare de l’Est train station was closed and evacuated after a bomb threat, as authorities tried to prevent new violence.
A police official said the station was closed “as a precaution.” The official, who was not authorized to be publicly named, would not give further details.
The Gare de l’Est is one of several major train stations in Paris, serving cities in eastern Paris and countries to the east.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.