Tribune News Service
BERLIN – European security forces moved against suspected radical jihadists in two countries Thursday in the latest sign that last week’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks have galvanized action against what officials for months have called a rising threat.
In Belgium, police killed two suspected jihadists and arrested one, while in Germany, police arrested a man they accused of recruiting fighters for Syria. In France, police linked a fourth shooting incident to the terrorist cell that carried out the Charlie Hebdo attacks a week ago.
Officials didn’t link the new cases to one another or to the Paris attacks that left 17 victims dead. But the events showed that after years of nervously watching so-called “jihadi tourists” sneaking into, and back from, Syria, European security forces were acting.
Across Europe, anxiety has grown as the manhunt continues for potential accomplices of the three Paris terrorists, all of whom were shot dead by French police. Authorities in Belgium signaled they were ready for more trouble by raising the national terror alert level from 2 to 3, the second-highest level.
“It shows we have to be extremely careful,” Van der Sypt said. The Verviers suspects “were extremely well-armed men” equipped with automatic weapons, he said. Authorities have previously said 300 Belgian residents have gone to fight with extremist Islamic formations in Syria; it is unclear how many have returned.
The raids and arrests came as Paris buried more dead from the Jan. 7 attack. On Thursday, the cartoonists Georges Wolinski, 80, and Bernard Verlhac, 58, known as Tignous, were buried. Others will follow in the coming days.
The fourth incident linked to the Paris terrorism spree involved the Jan. 7 shooting of a jogger who was seriously wounded but survived. The French newspaper Le Parisien said the suspect in that shooting had been identified and had been linked to a motor scooter found at a residence that Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and four hostages before being gunned down when police stormed a Paris kosher supermarket, had rented to store his weapons.
The newspaper said police think that Coulibaly, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi — blamed in the Charlie Hebdo shootings — and the fourth suspect were members of what the paper said authorities were calling an active terrorist cell.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.