Paris suspect eludes Belgium police as lockdown continues in Brussels

Police and military vehicles are patrolling the streets, while the metro and schools remain closed. 

Virginia Mayo/AP
Belgian Army soldiers patroled in the nearly deserted Grand Place in the center of Brussels on Monday

Belgian police have arrested 21 people in Brussels as authorities continue their search for suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam.

The city remained locked down for a third day Monday, amid warnings of possible imminent attacks like those in Paris Nov. 3, in which 130 people were killed. The metro, museums, and schools were closed, and hundreds of soldiers and armored military vehicles were still patrolling the streets and guarding European Union buildings, reports Reuters.

Authorities have announced that the sweeping security measures in the capital would be kept in place while they hunt for Mr. Abdeslam. The suspected Islamist militant has been on the run since the attacks in the French capital.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said the city will remain on Belgium's fourth and highest level of security threat, meaning the threat of an attack was "serious and imminent."

"What we fear is an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations," he said at a news conference.

The Washington Post reports that “not since Boston came to a near-standstill after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 has the life of a major Western city been brought to a halt this way by the fear of terrorism.”

The highly unusual measures in the Belgian capital underscore the fear gripping Europe a little more than a week after the coordinated assaults in Paris, which killed 130 people and injured more than 350 and brought into focus the Islamic State’s ability to strike the West directly.

Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told reporters that 19 raids were carried out Sunday in Molenbeek, home to many of the Paris attackers, and other districts of Brussels. Three additional raids were carried out south of the capital in Charleroi. Mr. Van Der Sypt said no firearms or explosives were found.

The BBC reports that police fired two shots at a car that rushed them in Molenbeek, injuring one suspect who was later arrested.

Yet Addeslam has so far evaded capture. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told the RTL radio that he "must have a lot of support on our territory. That's why all these searches being conducted at the moment are important."

Mr. Jambon said authorities were also still looking for members of the suspected militant cell linked to a Brussels plot and their accomplices.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that he will ask for parliamentary approval for Britain to join airstrikes against the self-described Islamic State in Syria, reports the Associated Press. While Britain has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, Mr. Cameron has long sought an expanded mandate to include targets in Syria.

Cameron made the announcement while meeting with French President François Hollande in Paris on Monday. It was the first of several meetings the French president has scheduled this week to rally support against Islamic State. He’s meeting with President Obama on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

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