Belgium charges nine terror suspects after raids across Europe
The terror suspects are accused of recruiting jihadists and plotting a possible attack on Belgium. The arrests are not believed connected to ongoing terrorism worries in Germany.
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Nine people were charged in a Belgian anti-terror court Wednesday, a day after they were picked up during a series of multi-national raids in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Agence France-Presse reports that Belgian authorities charged seven of the suspects – six Belgian-Moroccans and a Russian of Chechen origin, all arrested in Antwerp, Belgium – with plotting a terrorist attack on an unspecified target in Belgium.
Two others, arrested in Brussels, face charges in connection with an unrelated plot to recruit jihadists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although thirteen more were arrested in connection with the jihadist recruitment plot, they were later released.
All nine suspects are to appear in court on Nov. 26 in either Brussels or the nearby town of Mechelen, BBC News reports.
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The charges follow a series of raids across Europe on Tuesday at the behest of Belgian authorities and executed by police in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. The BBC writes that in addition to those detained in Belgium, Dutch police arrested a trio of men in Amsterdam while German police seized another man in Aachen.
Those latter four men appear to have been connected to the plot to attack Belgium, as well as what Belgian officials say was an effort to recruit and raise funds for a Chechen militant group called "Caucasus Emirate." The BBC adds that it is "not immediately clear" whether this is a reference to militants trying to create an Islamist state in the Russian Caucasus. The arrests were the culmination of a year-long investigation, and included several arrests made in Spain, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia over the course of the investigation.
The latter four men are to be extradited to Brussels.
The BBC reports that the Brussels raids, which resulted in the jihadist recruitment charges, were the result of a three-year investigation into the Assabyle Belgian Islamic Center. According to Belgian broadcaster VRT, the center is a non-profit "believed to have been active recruiting fighters for Iraq and Afghanistan."
Despite the involvement of German police in the raids, the German Interior Ministry says that the Belgian plot is not related to the terrorist threats that prompted Germany to heighten its security measures since last week, writes Deutsche Welle. Dutch officials also confirmed that the arrests there were not related to Germany.
Nonetheless, Germany remains in a heightened state of alert, reports Time magazine, due to "concrete information" the government received concerning a terrorist attack being planned for the end of November. Time writes that heavily armed police have become commonplace around government offices, airports, and railway stations, while possible high-profile targets such as the Reichstag building, home to Germany's lower house of parliament, have been closed to the public.
Germany's response in recent weeks is in sharp contrast to earlier skepticism in September by the Interior Ministry regarding the possibility of a Mumbai-style attack on European cities, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The Monitor notes that the tip-off reportedly came from the United States.