Brussels extends terror alert as US issues global travel warning
BRUSSELS will stay at the highest security threat level for another week over fears of an imminent terror attack, the Belgian government said, as the United States issued a worldwide travel alert for its citizens.
Authorities in Belgium and France were hunting for Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks on Nov 13, when gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least 130 people.
French police were yesterday analysing a suspected suicide belt similar to those used in the Paris assault, according to sources close to the investigation.
Authorities found the object - which lacked a detonator - in a dustbin in the southern suburb of Montrouge. Telephone data placed Salah in the area on the night of Nov 13.
Another police source said the belt appeared to have "the same configuration" as those used by the extremists.
Fearing a similar attack, Belgium maintained an unprecedented security lockdown in Europe's capital Brussels, with Prime Minister Charles Michel warning Monday that the threat "remains serious and imminent".
Belgian authorities have charged a fourth person in connection with the bloodshed in Paris, which was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
Washington and Paris have stepped up their fight against ISIS, with France launching its first strikes from a newly deployed aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean and the US calling for more international cooperation against the group.
Underlining heightened global fears of attacks after Islamist extremists killed scores in Mali, Turkey, Lebanon and Nigeria in recent weeks, the US government issued a worldwide travel alert warning American citizens of "increased terrorist threats".
Said a State Department travel advisory: "Current information suggests that ISIL (another acronym for ISIS), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions."
US President Barack Obama was to meet French leader Francois Hollande in Washington yesterday.
The French president will also hold talks with Germany's Angela Merkel today, Russia's Vladimir Putin tomorrow and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday as world leaders rally support for a global fight to crush ISIS.
The UN Security Council on Friday authorised "all necessary measures" to fight the group.
In Brussels, an eerie atmosphere hung over the city with soldiers in camouflage patrolling everywhere, from railway stations to European Union institutions.
The army and armed police will remain on the streets in coming days, the Belgian prime minister said, but schools and the metro system will reopen from today.