Two dozen arrested in anti-terror raids across Europe

belgium_terror_raidsUSA Today – by Kim Hjelmgaard

Authorities in France, Belgium and Germany arrested more than two dozen people in anti-terror raids across continental Europe on Friday.

The police raids in Belgium came after authorities Thursday night moved swiftly to pre-empt what they called a major impending attack, killing two suspects in a firefight and arresting a third.

Prosecutors in Brussels on Friday gave more chilling details about the case.  

Eric Van der Sypt, a Belgian judge, said the suspects intended to kill police in the streets or in their offices.

Sypt said a dozen searches led to the discovery of police uniforms, large amounts of cash and military-grade weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles. At least 15 people were being held there Friday.

Sypt said the investigation into those detained began before last week’s terror attacks in Paris that killed 17 people.

In France, 12 people were arrested Friday with suspected links to the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL. Those arrests came as Paris was on high alert. There was a further scare Friday as Paris’ Gare de L’Est train station was evacuated for a bomb threat.

Nervousness in France came as Secretary of State John Kerry visited Paris following criticism of the Obama administration last week that a senior cabinet-level figure from the United States did not attend Sunday’s solidarity marches.

And in Germany, police in Berlin arrested two people with suspected terror links Friday, although it was not clear if those arrests were linked in any way to the investigations taking place in France and Belgium.

Across Europe, anxiety has grown as the hunt continues for potential accomplices of the three Paris terrorists, and as authorities try to prevent attacks by the thousands of European extremists who have joined Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Rob Wainwright, the head of the European Union’s police agency Europol, said thwarting every potential attack in the region would be hard.

“The scale of the problem, the diffuse nature of the network, the scale of the people involved makes this extremely difficult for even very well-functioning counter-terrorist agencies such as we have in France to stop every attack,” Wainwright said.

He said that at least 2,500 and possibly up to 5,000 suspects have traveled from Europe to conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

It is not known how many may have returned to European soil to wage jihad.

Contributing: Associated Press

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