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Islamists arrested in Antwerp and Brussels, 'well advanced' terror attacks averted

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Belgian press has reported on the arrests of eight people following house searches in the Brussels and Antwerp areas. At least five of those arrested, two in Antwerp and three in Brussels, are suspected of preparing a terrorist attack.

"At least two of those involved are suspected of having made preparations to commit a terrorist attack in Belgium," the federal prosecutor's office said in a press release. "The target of the attack has not yet been determined."

Nevertheless, plans for the attack were reportedly well advanced, and those arrested are described as “Islamists”.

The investigation will seek to ascertain who influenced the aspiring terrorists.

“We are seeing more and more the phenomenon that young people are becoming radicalized in a short period of time,” the federal prosecutor said. “Sometimes that happens in just a few weeks.”

There are reportedly links between the Antwerp and Brussels suspects, but further research will have to show to what extent the two groups were co-ordinating. Police say there “is no question that the suspects planned a coordinated attack at several locations”.

Brussels bomb scare

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On Tuesday (28 March) Brussels’ Gare du Nord railway station was evacuated due to a security alert. British journalist Gary Cartwright who was present told EU Reporter “everything was orderly and the evacuation was carried out quickly, but with the events of March 22nd 2016 still very much in our minds it was very tense”. 

Antwerp itself has been subjected to numerous bomb attacks recently but these are attributed to “turf wars” between rival drugs gangs.

In one street alone, Deken de Winterstraat, home to a well known family of drug traffickers, there have been no less than eight bomb attacks.

Most recently, an attack on Kortrijkstraat in the Antwerp district of Borgerhout in the early hours of Thursday 23 March left six houses damaged. No injuries were reported.

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