Brussels: Belgian police launched new raids in the capital and beyond early today in their hunt for a fugitive suspect in the Paris attacks, as Brussels entered a work week grappling with a third day of unprecedented security measures that have closed subways, shopping districts and now schools.
In Paris, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he will ask for parliamentary approval for the UK to join airstrikes against Islamic State extremists in Syria.
The raids in Belgium began late yesterday, capping a tense weekend that saw hundreds of troops patrolling streets and authorities hunting for one or more suspected extremists, including Salah Abdeslam, a fugitive since being named a suspect in the Paris attacks that killed 130 and wounded hundreds of others on November 13.
Between Sunday night and midday Monday, 21 people were detained.
The Belgian government kept the capital on the highest state of alert in the face of what it described as a “serious and imminent” threat, preventing a return to normal in the city that is also host to the European Union’s main institutions.
Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said 19 raids were carried out yesterday in Molenbeek, home to many of the Paris attackers, and other boroughs of Brussels, and three raids were carried out in Charleroi.
Abdeslam was not among those arrested. Van Der Sypt said no firearms or explosives were found.
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told the RTL network that Abdeslam “must have a lot of support on our territory. That’s why all these searches being conducted at the moment are important.”
Police fired two shots at a car that approached them as they searched a snack bar in Molenbeek, Van Der Sypt said. The vehicle escaped but was stopped later in Brussels, and a wounded person inside was arrested. It wasn’t immediately known if the person was linked to the investigation into the Paris attacks.
Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, meeting in Paris, paid a quiet visit to the Bataclan concert venue, which saw the worst of the carnage in Paris.
Hollande plans to meet tomorrow with President Barack Obama, then Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in pursuit of a unified strategy in Syria.
Britain has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, but Cameron has long wished for an expanded mandate to include targets in Syria.
But having lost a vote once two years ago, his government had been reluctant to even suggest a vote until it could be certain it would win.