Two Dead After Police Anti-Terror Raid In Belgium
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Reports from Belgium say two people have died in a police raid on a suspected militant hideout in the east of the country. Belgium's public prosecutor said the casualties occurred while police were checking on people they believed to be about to launch what he called a terror attack in Belgium. Reporter Teri Schultz joins us from Brussels. And Teri, the Belgian federal prosecutor held a press conference about this raid. What did he have to say?
TERI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: The Belgian prosecutor said that not only were these attacks expected to be large-scale, but they were imminent and that's why the search warrants were carried out tonight, 10 of them in fact, carried out across Belgium. As you mentioned, two people died. Those were two of the suspects in the raid. The prosecutor said they opened fire on police as they were trying to carry out a raid and they were shot and killed by police. No police nor civilians were injured. And a third man was taken into custody.
CORNISH: Did they suggest there was any connection between this operation and the events in Paris?
SCHULTZ: The prosecutor is being very tight-lipped at this point about what they believe about these attacks. But he did say that the investigation had been going on for weeks, so certainly not connected to anything that's happened just since Paris. Police have been working on this for some time, and there is no suggestion at this point that they were directly linked to Paris.
CORNISH: Now, I understand the prosecutor mentioned that these people had just returned from Syria. Is that a big concern in Belgium?
SCHULTZ: Yes, he did say that all of the suspects had returned from Syria and it's a huge concern in Belgium. For a fairly small country with a population of just over 11 million, Belgium has the highest number per capita in the West of citizens who've gone to fight in Iraq and Syria. And there's of course, huge concern not just about these kids going - most of them kids - going to fight, but about what happens when they come home. And there's even a large trial going on now with some of these returning foreign fighters who are suspected of coming back radicalized, well-trained and planning to launch attacks on their home country.
CORNISH: Finally, Teri, a notable arrest, that of a suspected arms dealer in Belgium recently - what more can you tell us about that?
SCHULTZ: Yes, Audie, and what's interesting is that this does appear to be connected to the Paris attacks. A man who says he has been in connection with Amedy Coulibaly - the man who took over the supermarket and killed four people there - he says, according to Belgian media, that he had cheated Coulibaly in a car deal and he was worried that Islamist terrorists were going to come after him for that. So this man actually turned himself into police and it will be very interesting to find out what he's able to tell them about his connections with Coulibaly and the two brothers who carried out the Paris attacks.
CORNISH: That's reporter Teri Schultz speaking to us about the latest in Brussels. Teri, thank you.
SCHULTZ: You're welcome, Audie.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.