Belgium arrests man suspected of plotting attack against US embassy

A security officer checks a car at the US embassy in Brussels. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 June 2019

Belgium arrests man suspected of plotting attack against US embassy

  • The suspect identified only as M.G. appeared Monday morning before an investigating judge who ordered him held
  • Extremists have staged a number of attacks in Brussels, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO

BRUSSELS: Belgian counter-terror police have arrested a man suspected of plotting an attack against the US embassy in Brussels, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The police on Saturday arrested the man following “converging signs raising fears of an attack against the US embassy,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“The suspect has been detained for an alleged attempted attack within a terrorist context and preparation of a terrorist offense,” it said in a statement.
The suspect identified only as M.G. appeared Monday morning before an investigating judge who ordered him held, it added.
The suspect denies any involvement in the alleged plot.
A source close to the investigation told AFP the suspect is a Belgian man of around 40 years who had “raised suspicion because of his behavior.”
He had been seen “scouting” the embassy area before he was arrested, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source declined to say whether the suspect fit the profile of an extremist.
The US embassy was not immediately available for comment.
Extremists have staged a number of attacks in Brussels, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.
The worst was on March 22, 2016, when suicide bombers killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others at Brussels airport and a metro station near EU buildings.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the twin attacks.
Since 2016, several other attacks, some of them also claimed by Daesh, have targeted Belgian police or soldiers.
The last “terrorist attack” occurred in the eastern city of Liege on May 29 last year when Benjamin Herman shot dead two women police officers and a student.
He was subsequently shot dead by the police.
Since the end of January 2018, the terror alert level in Belgium has been set at two, which means an attack is considered unlikely, the same as it was before January 2015.
A level three alert — indicating an attack is possible and likely — was set later in January 2015 after police smashed an extremist cell in the eastern city of Verviers.
The Belgian police raid occurred a week after attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket in Paris.
The level four alert — which means a serious and imminent threat of attack — has been put in place twice but for limited duration.
It was imposed for the first time for a week in the wake of the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris which claimed the lives of 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.
It was then raised from three to four in the days after the March 2016 attacks.
Police say they believe the same cell was behind both the French and Belgium attacks.


Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

Updated 31 min 29 sec ago

Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

NAIROBI, Kenya: Ethiopia’s prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to “stay indoors.”
The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.
The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.
Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below:
The United Nations says shortages have become “very critical” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.
Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.
Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the UN World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.
Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.
The UN has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.
But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.
Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”