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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 19 September 2021
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Brussels latest: PM confirms terror alert to stay at highest possible level

The city will stay on lockdown tomorrow, with schools and the metro system closed.

Updated at 7.50pm

THE TERROR ALERT for the Brussels area will remain at the highest possible level, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed this evening.

It will stay at Level 4 for the city – but will remain at Level 3 for the rest of the country.

Speaking yesterday, Michel said the decision to raise the threat alert was taken…

“…based on quite precise information about the risk of an attack like the one that happened in Paris … where several individuals with arms and explosives launch actions, perhaps even in several places at the same time.”

Schools will be closed tomorrow – as will the city’s metro system, Michel said.

Updating its advice for Irish citizens this weekend, the Department of Foreign affairs said anyone in or intending to travel to Brussels “should exercise extreme caution”.

“Authorities have upgraded the security alert to maximum level,” the travel advisory said. 

“The metro has been closed and many trams are not running. Avoid large crowds and public events.”

brussels1 Source: Department of Foreign Affairs

Armed troops

Armed police and troops have been patrolling the near-deserted streets of the tense capital all weekend after the government raised the terror alert yesterday.

“What we fear are similar attacks, with several individuals in several places,” Michel said this evening.

He said he was aware the situation was “very difficult for everyone”.

“We are doing everything possible to return to normal life,” he said, adding that officials would review the situation again tomorrow.

The historic Grand Place in central Brussels, usually bustling, was virtually empty this weekend, with business badly hit in the run-up to Christmas as anxious residents heeded government warnings to stay at home.

Belgium Paris Attacks Belgian Army soldiers patrol near Christmas huts in front of the old Brussels' stock exchange. Source: Associated Press

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Manhunt

Michel made no direct mention of the manhunt under way for several suspects linked to the carnage in Paris, including Salah Abdeslam who is thought to have slipped past French security forces after taking part in the attack, which has been claimed by Islamic State.

With the world on edge over the jihadist threat, US President Barack Obama said the most powerful tool in the fight against IS was to say “that we’re not afraid”.

He added that he would go ahead with a visit to Paris for UN climate talks in December and called on other countries to show similar resolve.

As well as Obama, French President Francois Hollande is to meet world leaders in coming days including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron to discuss the IS threat.

The UN Security Council on Friday authorised nations to “take all necessary measures” to fight jihadist violence after a wave of attacks, including the downing of a Russian aircraft in Egypt with the loss of 224 lives and the storming of a luxury hotel in Mali that left 19 dead.

Putin said the Mali attack, in which six Russians died, showed “terrorism knows no borders” and must be confronted “with the broadest international cooperation”.

Moscow announced separately it had killed 11 IS-linked fighters in its volatile North Caucasus region.

With reporting from AFP

Read: Police issue photo in attempt to identify third Stade de France attacker

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Daragh Brophy

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