The Latest: Belgium says likely Paris fugitive gets help
PARIS (AP) — The latest on the attacks in Paris and security alert in Brussels. All times local:
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said that Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam is "likely" getting support from others during his continued flight from authorities.
After a manhunt stretching for nearly two weeks, Geens said it was unlikely Abdeslam could hide for so long on his own.
"If someone is on the run on his own, he is caught quickly, while it is tougher to find someone who is not alone. The latter is likely," he told VTM network after Thursday's meeting of the national security council.
He said it was obvious Abdeslam was part of a bigger network. "It is clear it was a cell that operated with logistic and personal support of a number of people."
Authorities in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste have confiscated a shipment of nearly 800 shotguns en route from Turkey to Belgium.
Financial police Lt. Gen. Gabriele Baron said Thursday that the shipment had not been properly declared to authorities under laws aimed at preventing arms trafficking. The recipient was listed as a company in Belgium, but Baron said that unless properly declared "there is a risk that it can end up in other hands."
Belgium has been under a state of high alert since the deadly Dec. 11 Paris attacks, as several suspects had links to Belgium and Belgium authorities have warned of an extremist plot against Brussels.
The shotguns were each packed in an individual box aboard a truck that arrived on a ferry in Trieste on Tuesday. Authorities found no other arms on board.
Trieste prosecutors are investigating possible charges.
Belgian authorities say an anthrax scare at Brussels's main mosque was a hoax after investigators determined the suspicious powder was flour.
Civil protection authorities had isolated 11 people on Thursday after a parcel with a white powder sent to the mosque had been opened.
Civil emergency authorities had decontaminated several people as a precaution.
This item has been corrected to show that the day of the scare was Thursday instead of Tuesday.
Belgium's prime minister has announced that the alert level in Brussels has been lowered because a threat of an attack is no longer considered "imminent."
Charles Michel said the subways system will be fully reopening on Friday. But he said that despite the lowering of the threat to its second-highest level, an attack remained "possible and likely."
He didn't immediately give details why the level in the capital could be reduced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Moscow is ready for closer cooperation with France against terrorism.
Putin spoke Thursday while welcoming visiting French President Francois Hollande for talks focusing on joint efforts to fight the Islamic State group.
Hollande said that it's necessary to closely cooperate in the fight against the common enemy while seeking a political solution in Syria.
Belgian authorities have raided three places outside of Brussels that they say are linked to the Paris attacks but have made no arrests.
After raiding a house near southern Sambreville, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital, they launched two more raids in Verviers, 125 kilometers (80 miles) east of the capital.
Verviers was already the scene of a bloody standoff in January when two suspects were killed by security forces in a shootout. The government said at the time it had averted an imminent attack.
Belgian authorities already have five suspects in prison facing terrorism charges related to the Paris attacks. At least one Belgian fugitive is on the run after the Paris attacks and a Belgian man killed in a police raid north of Paris was suspected of orchestrating the Paris attacks that left 130 people dead.
Belgian authorities have lowered their threat alert to the second-highest level in Brussels, the capital, calling a threat "possible and likely."
Peter Mertens of the Belgian crisis center told The Associated Press that the threat assessment now stood at the same level throughout the country. Since Saturday morning, Brussels — home to the European Union and NATO headquarters — had been wary of a threat that was considered "serious and imminent."
The lowering of the threat level came as a surprise, since the government had said that it would likely keep the highest threat level in the capital through the weekend.
On Sunday night, Belgian police carried out a series of raids that the government said were linked to a possible imminent attack like the Nov. 13 rampage in Paris. No firearms or explosives were found and one day later 15 of 16 detainees had to be released.
Some relatives of victims of the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 dead in Paris are criticizing the French government for not having done enough to prevent the attacks — and at least two say they will not attend Friday's national commemoration ceremony.
Emma Prevost, whose brother Francois-Xavier Prevost was killed, called for a boycott of the ceremony in a Facebook post.
She criticized authorities for not doing enough after other attacks around Paris in January left 17 people dead. She says "10 months later, the same people are able to restart and this time, cause 10 times more deaths."
Matthieu Mauduit, whose brother Cedric was killed in the Bataclan concert hall, said in a Facebook post he would not be attending the commemoration ceremony although he was not calling for a boycott. He says "I don't want to be a political 'trophy' exhibited by a government that did nothing for months, for years."
Berlin police say they are raiding a mosque after the arrest of two people suspected of belonging to an Islamist extremist group.
Police spokeswoman Patricia Braemer said the two suspects were arrested before the raid of the mosque Thursday in the city's western neighborhood of Charlottenburg. She did not give any further details on the suspects or the raid because the search was still ongoing.
In September, Berlin police raided eight buildings after a months-long investigation into suspected Islamist extremists involved in violent activities. Police said at the time there was no evidence that suspects had been involved in planning attacks in Germany.
Belgian authorities have launched a raid in southern Belgium linked to the Paris attacks but did not detain any suspects.
The raid in Sambreville, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Brussels and close to the French border, was carried out around noon. The area was cordoned off and a mobile lab was on place.
The federal prosecutor's office refused to divulge any further details.
A civil protection squad has decontaminated several people as a precaution at the main Brussels mosque after a suspicious parcel arrived.
The person who opened the package discovered white powder and immediately contacted the authorities. A specialized crew from the fire department was sent, witnesses at the scene said.
Fire brigade Capt. Anne Wibin said 11 people underwent a precautionary decontamination until it could be exactly established what the powder is. She said it will take six hours to analyze the powder, but it is not radioactive.
French authorities have extended a measure banning fans from visiting teams from attending soccer matches in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The French soccer league said all professional matches this weekend all across the country will be played without traveling fans in accordance with a decision by Interior Ministry.
It said the measure will be implemented during Champions League, Europa League, French league and French Cup matches until mid-December "because of a lack of availability of security forces under the emergency state" as well as due to a major climate change meeting in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
Security checks including metal detectors, bag searches and body pat-downs have been reinforced at stadiums after attackers on Nov. 13 targeted France's national stadium as well as bars, restaurants and a concert hall in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds. Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the carnage.
The co-founder of Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was playing at Paris' Bataclan concert hall on Nov. 13 when it was attacked, says he wants the rock group to return there when the concert venue reopens.
In an emotional interview with Vice released late Wednesday, the band, whose members escaped the carnage, described the moments of shock and horror. Choking back sobs, Jesse Hughes promised to return to the site where 89 people died at the hands of Islamic extremists — among the 130 people killed in Paris on that Friday night.
Hughes says "I want to be the first band to play in the Bataclan when it opens back up."
He says "Our friends went there to see rock and roll and died. I'm going to go back there and live."
Italy's prime minister has renewed his commitment to fighting terrorism alongside France, saying a broader coalition is needed to destroy the Islamic State group "and the atrocious project that it represents."
In a meeting Thursday with the French president, Matteo Renzi said that Libya must be a priority, saying the north African country "risks to be the biggest emergency."
French President Francois Hollande is in the midst of a weeklong push for a stronger coalition against Islamic State militants after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 and left hundreds injured. Hollande leaves Thursday for a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has already spoken with U.S. President Barack Obama.
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