Belgian authorities have raised the terror alert in Brussels to the highest it can go, putting the city on complete lockdown following intelligence that a coordinated attack involving weapons and bombs was imminent.
Schools are to remain closed on Monday, and members of the public have been urged to seek shelter, as troops are deployed to the streets.
A perimeter set around the Grand-Place was cordoned off by police and the military. People eating in resturants have reported being asked to finish their meals and leave, with one witness saying, “I am the restaurant and the police have asked us to finish our meals and regroup in and wait for their signal to leave”.
Belgian officials over the weekend deployed troops, shut the city’s metro system and entreated stores and cafes to close, after raising the security threat level for the city to four, its maximum level.
“It’s understood that there were several suspects—that’s also why [we called for] a big concentration of force,” Mr. Jambon told VRT news, a Belgian television station.
Two other men, Hamza Attou and Mohamed Amri, have been arrested after driving Mr. Abdeslam back to Belgium from Paris. One of the men said he thought Mr. Abdeslam may have been wearing explosives and was ready to detonate himself.
Mr. Abdeslam “was in Paris to finish the job,” Mr. Jambon said. “Why that didn’t go through, we don’t know, but it was a man who was prepared for a suicide mission.”
But the minister said the threat of a follow-up attack to Paris wouldn’t necessarily end if Mr. Abdeslam were captured.
“Unfortunately, it’s a threat that goes beyond just that individual,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Belgium on Sunday reiterated its advice to American citizens to remain in their homes and avoid crowded public areas in Brussels. “If you were planning to attend an event today, we strongly urge you to reconsider,” it said.
The impact of the raised terror alert—with instructions by officials to close some shops and cafes—was less noticeable on Sunday, when most businesses in the capital are typically closed anyway.
But one big test will be whether the metro system starts running again Monday morning, when many of the capital’s more than one million inhabitants depend on public transport to get to work.
Citizens were using social media and a specially created hotline to get information on the latest developments from the crisis center and public transport authorities.
Brussels’ public transportation service said subways would likely be shut at least until Monday.
Belgian authorities over the past week have raided residences across Brussels in their probe for more clues about some of the suspected Paris attackers, who appear to have planned that onslaught in Belgium.
Belgian prosecutors on Friday said one person had been charged in connection with the attacks and had been placed in custody. Prosecutors said they found weapons, but no explosives, after authorities searched the person’s home.
They declined to provide more details, but said the arrest was directly related to the Paris attacks.