Belgian police detain 12 suspected of planning new attacks

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Belgium: 12 detained in anti-terror raids

BRUSSELS, June 18 (Reuters) - Belgian police arrested 12 suspects in a major anti-terror operation overnight amid security alerts in Belgium and France around the Euro 2016 soccer tournament and just three months after Islamist bombers wrought carnage in Brussels.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel chaired a meeting of the government's security council - which includes the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, home affairs and justice - on Saturday after the raids and said soccer-related events would go on as planned with extra security measures.

"We want to continue living normally," Michel told a news conference. "The situation is under control."

"We are extremely vigilant, we are monitoring the situation hour by hour and we will continue with determination the fight against extremism, radicalisation and terrorism," he said.

Earlier on Saturday the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said 40 people had been taken in for questioning and 12 among them were arrested "in connection with a criminal investigation concerning terrorism."

"The investigating judge will decide on their possible detention later today. The investigatory results necessitated an immediate intervention. The investigation continues," it said in a statement.

No weapons or explosives had been found during the overnight searches, which also involved 152 garage lockups.

Photos of heightened security after the Brussels bombings:

20 PHOTOS
Brussels heightens security over fears of Paris-style attack, Belgium terror threat
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Brussels heightens security over fears of Paris-style attack, Belgium terror threat
A Belgian Army soldier patrols on a main boulevard in Brussels, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A Belgian Army soldier and policeman patrol on a main boulevard in Brussels, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Soldiers stand guard in front of the central train station on November 22, 2015 in Brussels, as the Belgian capital remained on the highest security alert level over fears of a Paris-style attack. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
A security guard searches a fan of U.S. trash metal band Slayer at the entrance of the Ancienne Belgique concert hall, in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A man cycles by Belgian Army vehicle parked in front of the main train station in the center of Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgian Army soldiers patrol near Christmas huts in front of the old Brussels' stock exchange on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A Belgian Army soldier patrols in the main train station in the center of Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
The closed entrance to the metro at the main train station in the center of Brussels is closed on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police close streets near the Grand Place in Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police stand near a barricade during an operation in the center of Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Police closes streets near the Grand Place in Brussels on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets and the city entered its second day under the highest threat level. With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgian Army soldiers and police patrol an otherwise busy shopping street in Brussels on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Belgium raised its security level to its highest degree on Saturday as the manhunt continues for extremist Salah Abdeslam who took part in the Paris attacks. The security levels shut down all metro lines and shuttered many shops as well as canceling sports matches. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Belgian Army soldiers patrol outside EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Belgian capital Brussels has entered its third day of lockdown, with schools and underground transport shut and more than 1,000 security personnel deployed across the country. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Belgian Army soldiers patrol outside EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Belgian capital Brussels has entered its third day of lockdown, with schools and underground transport shut and more than 1,000 security personnel deployed across the country. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Police officers patrol outside the Ancienne Belgique concert hall prior to a concert of U.S. trashmetal band Slayer, in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France invoked a never-before-used European Union "mutual-defense clause" to demand Tuesday that its partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A woman walks past a closed subway station outside EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Belgian capital Brussels has entered its third day of lockdown, with schools and underground transport shut and more than 1,000 security personnel deployed across the country. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Belgian Army soldiers patrol in the picturesque Grand Place in the center of Brussels on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. Salah Abdeslam, a French national who lived in Molenbeek, Belgium, is currently the subject of an international manhunt after the Paris attacks. Security has been stepped up in parts of Belgium as a precaution. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police detain a man in handcuffs, left, after stopping and searching his car which had French number plates, in Brussels , Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Belgium raised its security level to its highest degree on Saturday as the manhunt continues for extremist Salah Abdeslam who took part in the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
A woman walks past an armoured personnel carrier in Brussels on November 23, 2015 as the Belgian capital remains on the highest possible alert level. Brussels began a third consecutive day in lockdown under a maximum terror alert after Belgian police staged a series of raids but failed to find a key Paris attacks suspect. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
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SOCCER MATCHES TARGETED?

Flemish public broadcaster VTM said the people arrested overnight were suspected of planning an attack in Brussels this weekend during one of Belgium's soccer matches.

Areas where fans watch matches in Brussels were potential targets, as well as other crowded areas such as shopping centers and stations, Belgian media reported.

The Belgian crisis center in charge of coordinating security responses decided not to raise the security level to the maximum that would indicate an imminent threat of attack, Michel said.

Public broadcaster RTBF said Belgium's crisis center on Friday had placed several government ministers, including Michel, under heightened protection.

Michel said extra security measures had been taken for some people but did not name them.

With the Euro 2016 soccer tournament underway in neighboring France, Europe is on high security alert. Islamist suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels in March following attacks in Paris last November in which 130 people died.

Investigators have found links between the Brussels and Paris attackers, some of whom were based in Belgium.

On Monday a French police couple were stabbed to death outside their home in Paris in an attack claimed by Islamic State. In a video posted on social networks, the attacker, Larossi Abballa, linked it to the soccer tournament, saying: "The Euros will be a graveyard."

A spokeswoman for Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins said two people close to Abballa would meet a judge on Saturday while a third one was released.

Separately, a judiciary source told Reuters on Friday a 22-year-old man suspected of planning attacks on tourists had been jailed on terrorism charges after being arrested at the start of the week.

On Wednesday Belgian police received an anti-terror alert warning that a group of Islamic State fighters had recently left Syria en route for Europe planning attacks in Belgium and France, security officials said.

Also on Friday police arrested and detained a 30-year-old man named as Youssef E.A, a Belgian national, on suspicion of taking part in terrorist activities in connection with the Brussels attacks.

The man worked at Brussels airport, said RTBF, citing judiciary sources.

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