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People's Daily Online

Europe High on Alert to Possible Terrorist Risks

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:26, November 22, 2015

Just one week after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, the Brussels region, which houses the headquarters of the European Union (EU), raised Saturday the terror threat level to 'maximum.'

ALL POSSIBLE MEASURES IN BELGIUM TO MINIMIZE TERROR RISK

The raising of terror threat level in the Brussels region was because authorities received information on the risk of an attack 'similar to Paris,' Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told a press conference.

He said the potential targets were 'shopping centers, public transport and big events.'

Michel told reporters that the Brussels subway network would remain closed until at least Sunday afternoon, when a new evaluation of the threat would be made.

According to Belgian government, enhanced controls were set up at the French border, as well as in railway stations and airports. And local police in Belgium were immediately instructed to increase vigilance and to strengthen surveillance for public events.

Moreover, Belgian authorities had issued a recommendation not to travel to Paris.

According to Michel, military presence has also been bolstered.

And 400 million euros (426 million U.S. dollars) were being made available for the fight against terrorism in Belgium. An amendment to the budget for 2016 will be submitted in the coming week.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told Xinhua in an interview that Belgium was taking all possible measures to minimize the risks of being a target of terrorist attacks.

'Following recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the Belgian restricted cabinet has agreed to put in place additional important actions to tackle the terrorist threat, while respecting citizens' fundamental rights,' said Reynders.

Nine people were arrested in a series of police raids in Brussels on Thursday in connection with last week's Paris terror attacks.

On Thursday, the French National Assembly gave the government the green light to prolong the state of emergency in the country to three months to face the terror threats. The Senate voted Friday evening in favor of the bill.

SECURITY TIGHTENED IN MANY EUROPEAN COUNTRIES

A suspected terrorist accused of planning terror attacks in Sweden has been arrested and is being questioned by Swedish security forces, local media reported Friday.

The man's arrest came shortly after Sweden raised the country's terror threat level to a record high in the wake of Paris attacks. Sweden's terror threat is now at the fourth level, the second-highest on a one to five scale.

The 25-year-old Iraqi man, Mutar Muthanna Majid, was apprehended by police at an asylum center in Boliden of southern Sweden, the news website thelocal.se cited a press statement by Sweden's security service Sapo as saying.

Majid is believed to be a member of militant Islamist organization IS, and has been sought in a joint effort by security and police authorities in Sweden, Denmark and Norway since Thursday.

In Germany, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands to be held in the German city of Hanover on Tuesday evening was canceled due to threat of attacks.

According to information obtained by German media from German security sources, there was relevant indication to an attack that had been planned by potential Islamist attackers.

Germany had taken the necessary measures to ensure public safety, which included increasing control of the train and air traffic to and from France by the German Police, said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere last Saturday.

'Even Germany has been in the crosshairs of international terrorism,' he said, adding that the situation is serious.

EU MINISTERS URGE TO ADOPT PASSENGER DATA SYSTEM

European Union (EU) home affairs ministers on Friday called for the adoption of a data exchange system on EU air passengers at an extraordinary meeting.

The ministers reiterated the urgency and priority to finalize an EU passenger name record (PNR), which would gather information on air travel to and from Europe. The directive would be established before the end of 2015 and should include internal flights in its scope and provide for a sufficiently long period to collect PNR data, ministers said.

EU ministers also pushed for measures to detect firearms smuggling and strengthen the control of Europe's external borders.

EU member states have also agreed to immediately implement external border checks and upgrade the Schengen border control systems by March 2016.

Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Brussels-based think tank of Friends of Europe, said in an article that the EU counter-terrorism effort 'has been under-funded and lacks genuine powers,' and it has also 'found itself buffeted by political winds from different directions.'

'What is needed now is for the EU policymakers to highlight a far more coherent approach to combating terrorist attacks,' he said, upholding that the EU 'has a range of instruments at its disposal, but these need to be sharpened and publicized as deterrents.'



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