One of three suspected shooters has been killed by police in an anti-terror raid in Brussels on Tuesday. The shooters have been linked to the Islamist militants from the November Paris attacks that killed 130 people according to SBS. A major police operation was launched, with helicopters flying overhead and roads blocked in the usually sleepy suburb of Forest.
“This operation is connected to the Paris attacks,” a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor said.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor said one or more suspects had barricaded themselves into an apartment during the raid which is when police had come under heavy fire. Two of the shooters are still on the run according to the BBC.
“Two individuals apparently barricaded themselves inside a home,” Forest Mayor Marc-Jean Ghyssels told reporters.
Local media reported that police had surrounded a flat before further shots were fired and the body of one of the shooters was found.
“One body has been found during a search of the house in the Rue du Dries. His identity isn’t yet known but in any case it’s not that of Salah Abdeslam,” said the prosecutor’s spokesman.
Abdeslam is one of two suspects who are still at large after the November 13 Paris attacks. He fled across the border to Belgium with the help of friends, and he is believed to still be in Belgium.
The November attacks in Paris are believed to have been in part prepared and coordinated in Brussels. Belgian security forces are still hunting suspects and associates of Brussels-based militants but authorities said the the raid in Brussels was not aimed at finding Abdeslam.
“The operation was not targeting Salah Abdeslam. It was aimed at people connected to one or several of the 11 Belgians who have been charged,” a police source confirmed after the raid in Brussels.
Four police officers were injured during the raid in Brussels according to Belgian media. One of the injured police officers was a French policewomen. Another Belgian officer is in a serious condition after being hit in the ear and head by bullets according to The Guardian. The officers were a part of a special French and Belgian anti-terrorism squad investigating the Paris attacks.
Gun fire was heard from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and parts of Brussels, including a car factory and a major north-south railway linking Paris and Amsterdam, were sealed off. Two schools and two kindergartens close to the shootings were also put into lock-down until their parents could collect their children. All Forest residents were urged to stay inside.
A large area of Forest was cordoned offer during the raid in Brussels and all trams were halted. Beyond that area residents attempted to get on with their lives despite being shocked that their sleepy neighborhood was at the center of a major police operation. Many residents said the area was a calm and peaceful area of Brussels.
“It’s always quiet here, it is peaceful, ” said Nathanael Dantas, a 21-year-old student, who said he was unable to return home. “I’ve never seen so many police here.”
“It is a very calm peaceful area,” said one 17-year-old. “This is a shock for everyone.”
“Forest is a calm, peaceful place. I’ve never heard of gunfire in this neighborhood,” said Maria, a local. “Now I am afraid, I am afraid for my little girl.”
Despite the seriousness of the raid in Brussels, locals have taken to social media with the hashtag
#BrusselsLockdown and are sharing photos of their pets and animal memes to show they are not scared.
— Julie Lovenbury (@JulieLoven) March 15, 2016
— Catherine Pion (@pinonipp) March 15, 2016
— Alain Kerkhofs (@AlainKerkhofs) March 15, 2016
— Jeroen Peeters (@Jerre_Peeters) March 15, 2016
[Photo by Dirk Waem/Getty Images]