Brussels has been placed on maximum alert due to concrete threats pointing to a strong risk of an attack “along the lines of what took place in Paris,” Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference on Saturday.
Numerous “high-value target” institutions in the Belgian capital are being guarded by soldiers; these include buildings belonging to the European Union and NATO, both of which are headquartered in the city.
It is not known whether Jewish institutions are among the protected, or if so, which ones are the privileged. In 2014 the city’s Jewish Museum, targeted by radical Islamist terrorists a year ago, was forced to beg the government for upgraded protection after the massacre.
Brussels was placed at the government’s maximum level four on its threat scale after a security council meeting of top ministers, police and security services held on Saturday.
The public metro was closed down and people were warned to avoid crowds due to a “serious and imminent” threat of “coordinated, multiple attacks” by terrorists.
American citizens were warned by the U.S. Embassy to “shelter in place and remain at home… If you must go out, avoid large crowds,” the embassy said in a statement Saturday on its website.
Another government situation review is slated for Sunday afternoon. But until then, the metro system is closed, and although shopping centers and smaller shops opened briefly on Saturday, by midday they too had shut their doors.
Meanwhile, suspected fugitive terrorist Salah Abdeslam, 26, has arrived home to Brussels from Paris, and fear of the Da’esh terrorist has inspired Brussels sports authorities to postpone weekend games in two professional divisions.
The Belgian Interior Minister told reporters he wants a register of everyone living in Molenbeek, a neighborhood in Brussels, since it is still not clear who is living there and who is not.
Authorities are now conducting door-to-door checks of every house in Molenbeek. Abdeslam is from that neighborhood, as was the Da’esh (ISIS) mastermind of the Paris massacre, Abdelhamid Aba’aoud, 28, who was killed in a police siege in a Paris suburb last Wednesday. The two terrorists met and bonded in prison.Hana Levi Julian