Al Qaeda Terrorists Arrested In Plot To Attack EU As 27 World Leaders Meet
A potential suicide bomber and 13 other terrorist suspects with links to al-Qaeda were arrested as EU leaders arrived for their summit in Brussels, Belgian police said today.
Police raids were staged in Brussels and Liege in eastern Belgium after the authorities intercepted information that a suicide attack had been arranged and a man who arrived in the country last Thursday from Afghanistan or Pakistan had left a martyrdom video after saying farewell to his family, according to federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle.
Mr Delmulle played down suggestions that the gathering of 27 EU leaders in the Belgian capital, including Gordon Brown, was the target but it was clear that the arrests were made to avoid any possiblity of a terrorist strike on the summit.
"Intelligence showed that the suspect had received the green light to cary out an operation and that he believed he would not come back," said Mr Delmulle.
"The intelligence also underlined that he had said goodbye to his family because he wanted to enter paradise with a clear conscience. The intelligence also mentions a video which a linkman would send to his family. It is probably a farewell message."
The Belgian authorities continued to question those arrested last night and added that intelligence was received on Sunday that suggested that the main suspect's wife and children were to be spirited out of the country.
Mr Delmulle added: "We do not know where this suicide attack was planned for. It could be an operation in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but it cannot be completely ruled out that Belgium or Europe could have been the target.
"This information, linked to the fact that a European summit was happening in Brussels, obviously left us with no choice. It was decided to intervene today."
Judicial police chief Glen Audenaert said 242 police officers carried out 16 raids in Brussels and one in the eastern city of Liege.
The 14 arrested suspects, men and women, were set to appear before anti-terrorism judges.
The inquiry, described as the biggest anti-terrorism operation in Belgium, is linked to a Belgian Islamist group involved in training as well as fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border, in liaison with "important figures" in Al-Qaeda, according to the federal prosecutor's office.
The year-old investigation "probably prevented plans for an attack from being carried out in Brussels," last year, it added.
Four Belgian nationals, along with others, had been in Pakistan and Afghanistan since late 2007, according to the authorities. Two of the men returned to Belgium some months ago and were placed under surveillance. A third, the suicide attack suspect, returned only last Thursday.
All three were among those arrested and the other detainees were suspected of offering "logistic and material support" to the mission.