Islamic Extremists Detained In Belgium

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Police in Belgium picked up 14 suspected al-Qaida-linked extremists in raids Thursday. Six been have been charged with being members of a terrorist organization. The sweep came hours before a European Union summit brought together the heads of 27 countries in Brussels.


Police in Belgium think they may have stopped a terrorist attack aimed at European leaders attending a summit. Six people have been arrested and charged with being members of a terrorist organization. Teri Schultz has more from Brussels.

TERI SCHULTZ: Federal investigators say they're the Belgium branch of al-Qaeda, and after a year of surveillance, suspected members of the group were taken into custody yesterday in pre-dawn raids in Brussels and Liege. Leo de Bock of the Belgium Justice Ministry says that through extensive wiretapping and observation authorities, had concluded that an attack, possibly against the summit of EU heads of state, was about to be launched.

Mr. LEO DE BOCK (Spokesman, FPS Justice, Belgium): One of the members of the Belgium al-Qaeda branch was preparing a suicide attack; only when and where this person intended to strike could not be revealed. Allegedly, there is video showing this terrorist bidding his dear ones farewell.

SCHULTZ: De Bock says that suspect, as well as two others, recently returned from Afghanistan, where they are believed to have received al-Qaeda training. In addition, he says, last week members of the group moved their families out of their homes, viewed as a sign of impending action. De Bock says even without firm knowledge of a target or timing, these factors, plus the summit, prompted officials to act now.

Mr. DE BOCK: The possibility that the attack would be imminent was too big. They couldn't take the risk to wait any longer.

SCHULTZ: Though no explosives or large weapons were found in the raids, investigators seized computers and documents they believe will back up their allegations that a major strike was in the works. For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz in Brussels.

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