Paris attacks: Brussels threat level reduced

Belgian Army soldier walks through the Galleries Royal Saint-Hubert in the centre of Brussels. Image copyright AP
Image caption Soldiers were deployed around Brussels while the city remained on its highest level of alert

The Belgian authorities have reduced the threat level in Brussels from its highest level of four to three.

The city was locked down for nearly a week, with schools, universities, and the metro system closed and soldiers deployed on the streets.

The alert was raised after fears of a Paris-style attack. Some of the Paris suspects lived in Brussels. At least one, Salah Abdeslam, is still at large.

130 people were killed in the Paris attacks and more than 360 wounded.

Police in Belgium have mounted a number of raids and searches over the past two weeks and have charged five people with terror-related offences.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stressed that the threat of an attack in Brussels remained "real" and "serious", but said the "imminent nature" of the threat was "no longer present".

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"We can confirm that the Threat Analysis Coordination Agency re-evaluated the threat level from four to level three," a spokesman for the Belgian crisis centre said.

The reduction to level three lowers the perceived threat from "serious and imminent" to "possible and likely", bringing Brussels in line with the rest of the country.

The lowering of the threat level came as a surprise, since the government had said that it would probably keep the highest threat level in the capital through the weekend.

Image copyright EPA

From Brussels - BBC Europe Correspondent Chris Morris

Everyone is hoping that this is not the new normal, with armed police outside the school gates and soldiers in combat fatigues patrolling through shopping centres and railway stations.

The government says there is still a threat and it must be taken extremely seriously, but discontent with the way the situation has been handled is growing.

So there are many people still feeling a little nervous, in a city that is more accustomed to bureaucratic bungling than the threat of terrorism.

Fearful Brussels tries to leave lockdown behind

On Sunday night, Belgian police carried out a series of raids that the government said were linked to a possible imminent attack. No firearms or explosives were found, however, and 15 of 16 people detained were released on Monday.

On Thursday, fire crews and decontamination teams attended a major mosque in Brussels after a suspicious powder was discovered. The white powder turned out to be flour.

In Berlin, police arrested two suspected Islamists on Thursday after searching a mosque in the city.

The raid in the city's Charlottenburg district was aimed at investigating an "actual threat," police said.

German newspaper Bild reported that there were indications an attack was being planned at the mosque. Special forces in black uniforms were deployed during the operation and the building was sealed off.

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