Brus­sels schools and metro re­open de­spite ter­ror alert

Two sus­pects still at large

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRUS­SELS: Brus­sels strug­gled to re­turn to nor­mal yes­ter­day af­ter four days on max­i­mum ter­ror alert, with schools and the metro re­open­ing de­spite two sus­pects from the Paris at­tacks still be­ing at large.

Troops and po­lice were still pa­trolling the streets of the Bel­gian cap­i­tal and the alert sta­tus re­mained at the high­est pos­si­ble level of four, lead­ing to ques­tions about what had changed since schools had closed on Monday. “It’s not very re­as­sur­ing, is it?,” said Sarah, who runs a pri­vate nurs­ery in Brus­sels. “If it wasn’t safe to open on Monday and Tues­day, why is it now?”.

For two days par­ents scram­bled to cope with the ex­tra­or­di­nary de­ci­sion to close schools which au­thor­i­ties said was nec­es­sary to foil an im­mi­nent Paris-style at­tack by ji­hadists.

“I had de­cided to not bring my kids to school this morn­ing, but changed my mind late last night. Life must go on,” said a 47-year-old fa­ther who drove his two daugh­ters to school.

“Thank good­ness we only have a half day to­day,” said Marc, 14, as he boarded a school bus, adding that he fully en­joyed the two ex­tra days off from school. The Brus­sels metro sys­tem had been closed since Satur­day and grad­u­ally re­turned to ser­vice, but with many stops still shut to bet­ter de­ploy se­cu­rity staff. Car traf­fic was also backed up more than usual in Brus­sels, al­ready one of Europe’s most con­gested cities.

About 300 ex­tra po­lice from other cities in Bel­gium were sent to Brus­sels to guard schools and 200 ex­tra sol­diers helped pa­trol the metro.

Para­troop­ers out­side school

At the French Lycee in a posh Brus­sels sub­urb para­troop­ers cra­dled au­to­matic ri­fles at the top of the small street lead­ing to the school. “I’m not re­as­sured... this school is a sym­bol,” said mother Godeleve, as dozens of French par­ents dropped off their chil­dren.

Across town, the huge Kinepo­lis cinema mul­ti­plex re­opened with added se­cu­rity by lo­cal po­lice. Pub­lic mu­se­ums and con­cert halls also re­turned to nor­mal. Hos­pi­tals were also put on a spe­cial alert, with Bel­gian of­fi­cials wor­ried at­tack­ers could specif­i­cally tar­get emer­gency rooms and am­bu­lances. Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel on Monday ex­tended the max­i­mum threat level by at least a week, but took the de­ci­sion to re­open the schools yes­ter­day. Bel­gium on Tues­day is­sued an in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant for a “dan­ger­ous” man, Mo­hamed Abrini, who was seen driv­ing a car with key Paris at­tacks sus­pect Salah Ab­deslam. Ab­deslam is also at large.

The po­lice on Tues­day also charged a fifth sus­pect in con­nec­tion with the Paris at­tacks. Bel­gian daily L’Echo said a se­ries of po­lice raids on Sun­day suc­cess­fully foiled an im­mi­nent ter­ror­ist plot.

“We’re stay­ing calm but we’re keep­ing a close eye on ev­ery­one around us,” said Na­dia, a mother of two chil­dren aged nine and 11. “We Mus­lims are also tar­geted,” she said. School of­fi­cials were un­der or­ders to im­ple­ment strict guide­lines, in­clud­ing not let­ting par­ents onto the premises.

“I had night­mares all night,” said Fa­tima, whose child at­tends a kinder­garten north of Brus­sels.

The in­creased se­cu­rity pres­ence in front of the school was dis­creet, with po­lice pa­trol cars mov­ing be­tween three schools in the neigh­bor­hood. “They drove by six times this morn­ing,” said the school prin­ci­pal as the morn­ing bell rang, sig­nalling that it was time for par­ents to leave.

— AP

PARIS: French sol­diers pa­trol the Arch of Tri­umph on the Champs El­y­sees av­enue of Paris, in France yes­ter­day.

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