Brussels has raised its terror alert to the highest possible level.
“We have received precise information about a threat in which several arms would be used on different locations, similar to those in Paris,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said in a press conference in the Belgian capital Saturday morning.
Overnight, at 1:30 AM, he had raised the threat level to four, the top of the scale, applying it to Brussels and its suburbs specifically.
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks security in Belgium already had been stepped up, with increased questioning of suspect characters, the arrest of two alleged accomplices of the one attacker known to have escaped, and heightened searches of people entering crowded public venues. But now intelligence services in Belgium have received clear indications that attacks on several targets in Brussels may be imminent. “The information was concrete," Michel said. "The targets are: commercial centers, shopping streets, but also public transport and events that attract crowds. ... We immediately asked the crisis center to take measures for the protection of the people.”
Those steps include expanding the capacity of police and military forces, and efforts to keep crowds from gathering in Brussels venues and in the streets.
That the Brussels metro has stopped running until at least tomorrow afternoon could be an indication the information may involve planned attacks on the Brussels subway. Other public transport is still running. Big concerts and events are being cancelled.
In the meantime Michel asked the Belgian people “to be careful and vigilant," but cautioned them not to succumb to panic. "We have to remain serene and keep our heads cool and stay calm," he said.
The telephone alarm line, 1771 in Belgium, was opened for questions, advice and information about the current threat level. Brussels was to hold a meeting of its 19 mayors later on Saturday.
Brussels has been the site of multiple police raids and searches in the aftermath of the Paris attack, and is now viewed as a troublesome breeding ground for terrorism in Europe.