Brussels metro shut as Belgian capital put on maximum alert

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Belgium Raises Terror Alert to Highest Level

Belgium raised the alert status for its capital Brussels to the highest level on Saturday, shutting the metro and warning the public to avoid crowds because of a "serious and imminent" threat of an attack.

A week after the Paris attacks carried out by Islamic State militants, of whom one suspect from Brussels is at large and said by authorities to be highly dangerous, the city was placed on the top level "four" in the government's threat scale after a meeting of top ministers, police and security services.

SEE MORE: Tapped phone led Paris attack leader to his death

"The advice for the population is to avoid places where a lot of people come together like shopping centers, concerts, events or public transport stations wherever possible," a spokesman for the government's crisis center said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel declined to give the reason why the authorities raised the alert level but told a news conference the government would review the security situation on Sunday afternoon.

The metro system would remain closed until then, in line with the recommendation of the crisis center, he said.

The crisis center website said it was calling on local authorities to cancel large events, urge people to avoid crowds, postpone soccer matches, close the Brussels metro for the weekend and stepping up the military and police presence.

Suspected militant Salah Abdeslam, 26, returned home to Brussels from Paris after the attacks, when his elder brother Brahim blew himself up at a cafe.

Fears of the risk he still poses prompted the cancellation last week of an international friendly soccer match in Brussels against Spain. The crisis center said weekend games in the top two professional divisions should now be postponed.

Anti-terrorism raids and arrests across Europe after Paris attacks:

27 PHOTOS
Anti-terrorism raids and arrests across Europe after Paris attacks
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Brussels metro shut as Belgian capital put on maximum alert
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 29: Security forces of Belgium stand guard as two people arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Brussels, Belgium on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 29: Security forces of Belgium stand guard as two people arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Brussels, Belgium on December 29, 2015. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 20: On the street where the raid took place in the Saint Denis area of Paris, and where three people died, including the ringleader of the terrorist attack, police man the security barrier as the investigation at the apartment continues. A third body was found in the rubble today. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed members of the German SEK special forces police unit stand outside a house in Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Heavily-armed members of the German SEK special forces police unit stand outside a house in Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Policemen check the identity of motorists as part of security measures set following terrorist attacks in Paris on November 17, 2015 at the French-Belgium border in Neuville-en-Ferrain. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Police officers arrive at Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol at the main railway station in Berlin, on November 17, 2015. Security has been tightned in Germany following the string of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late November 13, 2015 left at least 129 people dead, in the worst such violence in France's history. AFP PHOTO / DPA / KAY NIETFELD +++ GERMANY OUT +++ (Photo credit should read KAY NIETFELD/AFP/Getty Images)
ALSDORF, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 17: Police officers arrive at Schaufenberger Strasse street where they possibly made two arrests on November 17, 2015 in Alsdorf, Germany. Police announced earlier today that a unit of the SEK special forces had in a separate incident arrested two men and one woman at 9:30 this morning in connection with the recent terror attacks in Paris in the parking lot of a Jobcenter employment office. So far it is unclear who the suspects are though initial reports indicate Salah Abdeslam, a brother of a man who took part in the attacks and whom police are searching for across Europe, is not among them. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
Policemen check the identity of motorists as part of security measures set following terrorist attacks in Paris on November 17, 2015 at the French-Belgium border in Neuville-en-Ferrain. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers us a camera as they prepare to enter a house in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers prepare to enter a house in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium special force officers climb the outside of a house as they prep[are to enter in the Rue Delaunoy in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean of Brussels, on November 16, 2015, several days after a series of deadly attacks on the French capital Paris. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to the November 13 attacks in Paris which left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers look on as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the special police forces takes a picture outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Security forces personnel walk past during ongoing operations in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police escort a woman away from the scene as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavily armed special forces stand guard outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavily armed special forces stand guard outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
Special force officers move into position outside a house being searched in the Rue Delaunoy in Brussels on November 16, 2015. During the weekend searches were carried out and multiple people were arrested in relation to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Several terrorist attacks in Paris, France, have left at least 129 dead and 350 injured. Most people were killed during a concert in venue Bataclan, the other targets were a restaurant and a soccer game. The attacks have been claimed by Islamic State. AFP PHOTO/BELGA/DIRK WAEM =BELGIUM OUT= (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)
An anti-bomb robot is pictured on the scene of a bomb alert at the Rue des Deux Eglises (Tweekerkenstraat street) in downtown Brussels on November 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BELGA PHOTO / ERIC LALMAND ** Belgium Out ** (Photo credit should read ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers man a cordon as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgian police cordon off a street during a police raid in connection with the November 13 deadly attacks in Paris, in Brussels' Molenbeek district on November 14, 2015. Several people were arrested in Brussels on November 14 during police raids connected to the attacks in Paris, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said. Geens said on RTBF television that these arrests in the capital's Molenbeek neighbourhood 'can be seen in connection with a grey Polo car rented in Belgium' found near the concert hall in the French capital where scores of people were killed. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE = BELGIUM OUT = (Photo credit should read JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/AFP/Getty Images)
A car is towed during a police raid in Brussels' Molenbeek district on November 14, 2015, in connection with the November 13 deadly attacks in Paris. Several people were arrested in Brussels on November 14 during police raids connected to the attacks in Paris, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said. Geens said on RTBF television that these arrests in the capital's Molenbeek neighbourhood 'can be seen in connection with a grey Polo car rented in Belgium' found near the concert hall in the French capital where scores of people were killed. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE = BELGIUM OUT = (Photo credit should read JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/AFP/Getty Images)
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The alert level for the whole country was raised following the Paris attacks to level three out of four, implying a "possible or probable" threat. Previously, only certain sites, such as the U.S. embassy, were at level three.

Belgium, and its capital in particular, have been at the center of investigations into the Paris attacks - which included suicide bombers targeting a France-Germany soccer match - after the links to Brussels emerged. Three people detained in Brussels are facing terrorism charges.

French authorities have said the attacks were planned in Brussels by a local man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, who fought for Islamic State in Syria and was killed in the siege of an apartment in the Paris suburb of St. Denis on Wednesday.

Salah Abdeslam, who was from the same Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek and is said by officials to have known Abaaoud in prison, was pulled over three times by French police but not arrested as he was driven back to Brussels early last Saturday by two of the men now in custody.

As well as Abdeslam's brother, a second man from Molenbeek, Bilal Hadfi, was also among the Paris suicide bombers.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told reporters he wanted a register of everyone living in Molenbeek because it was not clear at present who was there, with authorities conducting door-to-door checks of every house.

"The local administration should knock on every door and ask who really lives there," Jambon said.

Soldiers are already on guard in certain parts of Brussels, including at the institutions of the European Union headquartered in the city.

Brussels is also home to the headquarters of NATO.

The last time any part of the country was put on maximum alert was in May 2014 when a gunman shot dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. At that time, Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions were put on level four.

The capital as a whole was last at the level four for about a month at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008, when authorities intercepted a plot to free convicted Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi. Brussels' traditional New Year fireworks display was canceled.

Trabelsi was sentenced in Belgium in 2003 to 10 years for attempting to blow up a Belgian military base that houses U.S. soldiers. He was extradited to the United States in 2013.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald, editing by Jan Strupczewski, Sandra Maler and Stephen Powell)

See more images from the aftermath of the Paris attacks:

20 PHOTOS
Paris terror attack scene, shootings, bombings
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Brussels metro shut as Belgian capital put on maximum alert
People run after hearing what is believed to be explosions or gun shots near Place de la Republique square in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Spectators gather on the pitch of the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Two men evacuate the Place de la Republique square in Paris as a police officer looks on, after several shootings on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 13: Police survey the area of Boulevard Baumarchais after an attack in the French capital on November 13, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 18 people were killed in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Rescuers rush to the scene following an attack in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A firefighter attend to an injured person lying on a stretcher near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated by bus, near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. President Barack Obama departs the White House briefing room after delivering remarks on the recent violence taking place in Paris, France November 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Gunfire and explosions erupted in the French capital with early casualty reports indicating at least 60 dead. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Football fans leave the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
supporters run in panic on the pitch during the International friendly match between France and Germany on November 13, 2015 at the Stade France in Paris, France.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Police are seen outside a cafe-restaurant in 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stands behind a cordon blocking the street near the site of an attack in a restaurant in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium and another at a concert venue. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A victim lies on the ground covered by a white sheet (Rear L) as special police work at the attack scene rue Bichat, in central Paris, early on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall late on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters and rescuers evacuate injured people near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated following an attack at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Forensic experts inspect the site of an attack outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, early on November 14, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. A number of people were killed and others injured in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
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