The Slatest

Brussels Is at a Standstill Over Fear of an Imminent Attack

Brussels lockdown
An armed policeman and two soldiers in Brussels on Nov. 23, 2015.

Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Public transit, schools, and shopping areas remained closed in Brussels on Monday as a state of citywide emergency, a response to what authorities have called a “serious and imminent” threat of a jihadist terror attack, extended into its third day. “We are talking of a threat of several individuals with weapons and explosives, to launch acts, maybe even in several places at once,” the country’s prime minister said Saturday. Prosecutors say 21 suspects have been detained in counterterrorism raids since Sunday. From CNN:

Soldiers and heavily armed police are out in force on the streets, and people have been warned to avoid large gatherings.

“This is a very exceptional situation that I have never seen in my life,” said Alain Destexhe, a 57-year-old member of the Brussels regional parliament. He described the atmosphere in Brussels as “very heavy.”

“I’ve never, ever seen Brussels this quiet,” one resident told the New York Times; “we’ve never seen anything like it,” said another.

Several of the men believed to have planned and carried out the Nov. 13 Paris attacks lived in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. One of them, a 26-year-old Belgian-born French national named Salah Abdeslam, was stopped and released near the France-Belgium border the morning after the attacks by officers who did not realize his significance. Abdeslam is still at large.