Videos show suspect ‘neutralized’ by police in Brussels
UPDATE 4:30 p.m. PT with more details on the arrests.
BRUSSELS — Residents of the Brussels district of Schaerbeek reported hearing gunshots and at least three explosions on Friday afternoon, amid reports that Belgian police were raiding and making arrests.
A few days after the attacks in Brussels, their relatives are still missing
Dramatic videos show officers with guns drawn as they approach a man dressed in black and lying injured on a tram platform amid shattered glass. Officers appear to escort a child away from the man, then step back.
Police apprehended three individuals during sweeps on Friday, including the man injured in Schaerbeek, who had been shot in the leg by authorities, according to the Associated Press. Authorities also shot another of the detainees in the leg, the news service said.
The three explosions heard by residents were controlled explosions, Mayor Bernard Clerfayt said, according to Reuters. Clerfayt told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF that the injured man in the videos was suspected of being linked to Tuesday’s attacks that killed 31 people at Brussels airport and metro.
Before apprehending the man, who was carrying a suspicious bag, authorities used an explosives detection robot to slowly approach the man. It is not known at this stage what was in the bag.
In a third video, police are seen grabbing him by the arms and dragging him behind a waiting car.
Later, a police officer wearing a protective suit was seen by The Associated Press inspecting the scene.
An emergency services worker wearing protective clothing, with a robot on the right, investigates the scene in Schaerbeek, Belgium, on Friday.
Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Leila, a 14-year-old Belgian, was having her hair cut in a shop opposite the metro station when she saw police activity outside. Leila, who was there with her older cousin, said Mashable that the customers of Mes Haires Coiffure hid in the basement when they heard gunshots and stayed there for an hour.
“We were very scared and went to the basement.”
“First we saw the police coming with a big gun,” Leila said. “Then we heard gunshots so we got really scared and went to the basement.”
When patrons returned upstairs, they saw what Leila described as a man on the tram tracks holding a bag. She added that she couldn’t see him very well.
The suspect, who has not been identified, is a “big fish”, according to anonymous sources Speaking to Belgian broadcaster RTL.
Louise Roger, 21, from Brussels, was passing through the Schaerbeek district when she witnessed the raid.
She said she heard gunshots around 2 p.m. and looked towards the tracks, where she could see the man.
“He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t, I think he stayed on the ground. He was on the tracks,” Roger said, referring to the man who was shot by police.
“I heard a young girl screaming, and the police said, ‘Leave her. Go away.'”
“There were the two shots, I heard a young girl screaming and the police said, ‘Leave her. Go”.
Another witness who witnessed the operation said police ordered the man to take off his jacket, ‘probably to see if he had an explosive belt or not’, and several popping noises were heard. then been heard. The man then fell to the ground.
RTL said the man had been under police surveillance “for some time”.
At least one suspect in the airport bombing is believed to be still at large.
The Associated Press also reported that the three people who were arrested in Brussels on Friday – including one in Schaerbeek – were linked to the Thursday arrest of a man in Paris suspected of planning a new attack.
Schaerbeek housed at least one apartment used by the men who plotted the Brussels attacks. A taxi driver who drove two of the suspected suicide bombers to the airport directed police to their home earlier this week, where they found remnants of explosives and a will, believed to be that of Ibrahim El Bakraoui, left on a computer found in a trash can.
At least six other people believed to have been linked to the attacks were arrested in raids by Brussels authorities on Thursday evening.
Authorities have lowered the terrorist threat level in Belgium by one notch, although they said the situation remained serious and that another attack is “probable and possible”.
“The danger,” said Paul Van Tigchelt, head of the Terrorism Assessment Authority, “has not gone away.”
Additional reporting by Brian Ries in New York.
Certain information in this report was provided by The Associated Press.
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