Belgian Troops Guard Key Sites in Wake of Anti-terror Sweep

Soldiers deployed in Antwerp's Jewish quarter; British police arrest woman at London airport on suspicion of terrorism.

Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium
Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. AP

Soldiers fanned out to guard possible terror targets across Belgium Saturday, including some buildings within the Jewish quarter of the port city of Antwerp. It was the first time in 30 years that authorities used troops to reinforce police in Belgium's cities, and came a day after anti-terror raids netted dozens of suspects across Western Europe.

In an interview broadcast Saturday on Belgium's VRT network, Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput said soldiers could be deployed to protect certain embassies and some buildings within Antwerp's Jewish quarter. Belgium has increased its terror warning to 3, the second-highest, following the anti-terror raids of Thursday which left two suspects dead.

In France, an official disclosed that Said Kouachi, one of the gunmen who attacked the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, had been quietly buried.

After an initial refusal, the mayor of Reims said he was forced to backtrack and allow the burial.

Mayor Arnaud Robinet said the government had insisted he allow the elder Kouachi brother to be buried in Reims because according to French law residents of a town have the right to be buried there.

"He was buried last night, in the most discrete, anonymous way possible," Robinet said in an interview on French television channel BFM TV. Robinet said he didn't know where Kouachi was buried in the cemetery, which he didn't identify.

Kouachi and his brother Cherif were killed by French counter-terrorism police Jan. 9 after they killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Cherif Kouachi is to be buried in Gennevilliers, a suburb of Paris where he lived, the city said in a statement Friday.

Authorities said a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed five people including four hostages at a kosher market in Paris before he was killed by police. There has been no word of plans for his burial.

French, German, Belgian and Irish police had at least 30 suspects behind bars on Friday and in Brussels, authorities said a dozen searches led to the seizure of four Kalashnikov assault rifles, hand guns and explosives. Several police uniforms were also found, which Belgian authorities said suggested the plotters had intended to masquerade as police officers.

The seizures followed an anti-terrorism sweep on Thursday in and around Brussels and the eastern industrial city of Verviers in which two suspects were killed in a firefight and a third wounded. Authorities said the follow-up operation netted several returnees from Islamic holy war in Syria.

Authorities have said there was no apparent link between the foiled plots in Belgium and last week's terror attacks in Paris on the newspaper and a kosher supermarket.

British police arrest woman on suspicion of terrorism

Meanwhile, British police say they have arrested an 18-year old woman at a London airport on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism and membership of a banned organisation, a police statement said.

Her arrest on Friday after she arrived on a flight at Stansted airport was connected to a prior investigation which had already resulted in the arrest of a 21-year-old man in October last year.

The woman was taken to a London police station where she remains in custody, the police said.

The arrest is the latest in a series carried out by British counter-terrorism officers since the country's threat level was raised in August to its second-highest level because of risks posed by Islamic State fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.
Much of Europe is currently on heightened security alert after last week's killings in Paris and raids in Belgium in which two gunmen were killed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is in the United States for two days of talks with President Barack Obama where they have said they would tackle the threat posed by extremists.