Belgian police have arrested 13 people in a dozen raids across the country, saying the suspects are believed to have been members of an Islamic group planning attacks on police officers.
Two gunmen were killed during a raid Thursday in the eastern Belgian city of Verviers, but their identities have not yet been confirmed, authorities said.
Officials told reporters Friday there is no apparent link to last week's two terrorist attacks in Paris. However, another two suspects were arrested in France. Belgian prosecutors are seeking their extradition, spokesman Eric Van der Sijpt said at a Brussels news conference, according to the AFP news service.
With the arrests, "not only a terror cell but also their support network" have been dismantled, AFP quoted the spokesman.
Shootout with police
In Verviers, close to the German border, police found an assortment of automatic and small firearms, explosives and police uniforms in an apartment.
The suspects opened fire as police closed in. The gunfight lasted several minutes, filling the air with smoke, gunshots and sirens. No police were wounded.
Police carried out other searches in several other locations around Belgium, including Brussels.
Authorities believe some of the extremists had returned to Belgium from Syria.
While the latest arrests do not appear to be linked to the Paris attacks, Belgian police said a man they arrested earlier Thursday is suspected of supplying weapons to Amedy Coulibaly, an Islamist militant who was shot dead in a police raid after he’d taken hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris last Friday. He killed four of the hostages, as well as a policewoman a day earlier.
Officials have raised the terror threat in Belgium to its second-highest level.