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Brussels hotel locked down amid ‘imminent’ terror threat

Soldiers descend on Radisson Blu Hotel, instruct guests to remain in their rooms; Belgium extends national state of emergency

Belgian soldiers stand at the Grand Place in Brussels on November 22, 2015. The Belgian capital was locked down for a second day on November 22 with police and troops on the streets as the authorities hunted for several suspects linked to the Paris attacks. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)
Belgian soldiers stand at the Grand Place in Brussels on November 22, 2015. The Belgian capital was locked down for a second day on November 22 with police and troops on the streets as the authorities hunted for several suspects linked to the Paris attacks. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Belgian police and soldiers descended on a major hotel in central Brussels Sunday night, declaring a lockdown on the buildings in light of a serious security threat.

Guests at the Radisson Blu Hotel were told to stay in their rooms and residents of the area were told to stay indoors until further notice. In addition, the Grand Place central square, minutes from the hotel, was evacuated.

The move is thought to be part of the ongoing manhunt for several suspects linked to the November 13 Paris attacks, including Salah Abdeslam, who managed to slip past French security forces.

Salah’s brother Brahim died when he blew himself up outside a bar as others attacked restaurants, a rock concert and the national stadium.

Belgian police have launched several operations linked to the “terrorist threat” facing Brussels, which is under a top security alert over fears of Paris-style attacks, a spokesman said Sunday.

“Different operations are under way because of the terrorist threat,” a police spokesman told AFP, requesting that “the media do not comment directly on the actions under way, mentioning the places for example.” The public prosecutor will hold a news conference “when it is all over,” he added.

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Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said earlier Sunday that Brussels would remain at the highest possible alert level into Monday, with schools and metros closed over a “serious and imminent” security threat similar to the Paris attacks.

“The threat is considered serious and imminent,” Michel said, a day after the authorities raised the alert level from 3 to 4 in the city that also hosts EU and NATO headquarters.

The city’s metro system will stay closed and all schools will be shut on Monday, he said after a meeting of the national security council to review the situation.

Tense Brussels was locked down for a second day Sunday with armed police and troops patrolling near-deserted streets amid fears jihadists planned a repeat of the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead on November 13.

“What we fear are similar attacks, with several individuals in several places,” Michel told reporters.

“We are very aware that this situation is very difficult for everyone… we want to thank everyone for their efforts and everyone must remain vigilant,” he said.

“We are doing everything possible to return to normal life.”

The prime minister said officials would review the situation again on Monday, given the disruption expected in Brussels, which is a diplomatic hub as home to the European Union, NATO and a host of major political and business groups.

Michel said the rest of the country would remain on security alert level 3, meaning an attack is considered possible and the threat credible.

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