Two killed in terror raid shoot-out
Two suspected terrorists have been killed and a third arrested in a shoot-out with police in Belgium, prosecutors have said.
The fire-fight - in the town of Verviers close to the German border - broke out as police mounted a series of raids amid fears an "operational cell" was about to mount a major terrorist attack.
A spokesman for the Belgian Federal Prosecutor said that they had been investigating a group involving individuals who had recently returned from Syria.
"During the search warrants in Verviers, certain suspects immediately opened fire with automatic weapons," Eric Van der Sypt told a news conference in Brussels.
"They opened fire for several minutes before being neutralised. Two of the suspects were killed. A third one has been arrested."
With the investigation continuing, the Belgium authorities last night said that the country's terror alert level was being raised to its second highest level.
The incident comes little more than a week after Islamist terrorists in neighbouring France killed 17 people in attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris.
Mr Van der Sypt said there was no link at this stage to the events in the French capital.
The Belgian authorities believe that the suspects were planning to target police buildings in attacks which could have been carried out in a matter of days - or even hours.
Eyewitnesses to the raid in Verviers described hearing a series of explosions followed by rapid fire.
Marylou Fletcher, told the BBC: "We were going back from shopping and saw the police cars. We thought there was an accident then we heard something blowing up.
"We started running but did not understand what had happened. There was a lot of gun shots. My children cried. They are just terrified."
The area around the train station at Verviers was reported to have been cordoned off and there were reports of a heavy police presence in the town centre.
Mr Van der Sypt said police had been acting on a series of around 10 warrants relating to locations in Verviers and Brussels issued by an investigating magistrate who specialises in terrorism cases.
Last night's raid was carried out with the support of Belgian security services and "police special forces", he said. No police or members of the public were injured.
Earlier, the Belgian authorities said they were looking into possible links between a man arrested in the southern city of Charleroi for illegal arms dealing and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four people in a Paris kosher market last week.
David Cameron, in Washington for talks with US President Barack Obama, said they would be discussing the incident in Belgium.
"It's still early days in terms of getting information but it looks like yet another indication of the huge risk that we face from Islamist extremist terror in Europe after the attacks in Paris, after events here in America, now we see this," he said
"We have to remain extremely vigilant, we have to take all the steps we can to beat this evil."