Belgian police 'thwart imminent al-Qaeda attack'
Belgian police say they have thwarted an imminent al-Qaeda suicide bomb attack as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other European Union leaders arrived for a summit in Brussels.
By Bruno Waterfield | December 12, 2008
The arrival of EU leaders and intelligence that a terror attack was on the way triggered a massive police operation, involving 242 officers, in overnight house raids in Brussels and Liege.
Police have arrested 14 suspects, three of whom, including the suspected suicide bomber, had just returned from Afghanistan, where it is thought they had received orders from al-Qaeda commanders.
Police have been closely watching the suspected suicide bomber, one of four Belgian citizens in the group.
He returned from Afghanistan on Dec 4 and three days later police received information he was planning to send a video message to close relations.
Johan Delmulle, Belgium's Federal Prosecutor, revealed that police had swooped because he had "received the green light to carry out an operation from which he was not expected to come back".
"He had said goodbye to his loved ones, because he wanted to enter paradise with a clear conscience," he said.
"This information, related to the fact that a European summit is proceeding at this time in Brussels obviously did not leave us any other choice than to intervene today."
Belgian police investigations have focused on an individual only identified as MG "located in Pakistan and in Afghanistan and important people in the al-Qaeda organisation".
Mr Delmulle described the raids as "the most important" anti-terrorism operation in Belgium following a one year investigation of a Belgian Islamist group involved in training as well as fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
He said that police investigators believed the suspects had been working with and under the control of "important figures" in al-Qaeda.
"We don't know where the suicide attack was to take place," he said.
"It could have been an operation in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but it can't be ruled out that Belgium or Europe could have been the target."
EU leaders were informed of the raids via national embassies as Belgian police officers went into action.
Heads of state and government are currently arriving in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss the economic crisis and climate change.
The British Embassy in Belgium said there was "no increased alert" following the operation.