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Australia increases police presence as seven arrested after Brussels terror attacks

Police officers and investigators search a flat during an anti-terrorist operation in Argenteuil, near Paris, France on March 25, 2016. One person was arrested and several controlled detonations were carried out.(IANS)

Melbourne, March 26: Australia will ramp up its police presence at two major potential terror targets — sporting venues and airports — in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews pointed out before the traditional Australian Football League (AFL) season opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground contested by Richmond and Carlton last Thursday, that there were twice as many police as last year’s fixture. Andrews said the increase in police on the beat would flow through to other public events happening over the Easter weekend. “These additional resources are all about keeping Victoria safe,” Andrews told reporters on Thursday. “(They) are there and the determination is there to … never let these evil murderers win out.” The premier said the state had no evidence that the string of attacks carried out on the Belgium capital’s airport and rail network on Tuesday, which killed 34 people and injured over 200, would be repeated on Australian soil. However, Andrews said Victoria needed to be vigilant and ensure “longstanding (safety) protocols were put in place.” On Wednesday, Prime Minster (PM) Malcolm Turnbull spoke to officials from the Australia Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) as well as several high-ranking cabinet members to discuss the implications of the Brussels attack.

Meanwhile in Brussels, three of the seven people arrested so far as part of the investigation into the Brussels terror attacks have been freed, Belgium’s federal prosecutor confirmed in a statement issued yesterday. Three people arrested outside the offices of the federal prosecutor on Thursday, identified as Faycal C., Khalid A. and Mariam A., were released by the investigating magistrate. Details of the police raids on Thursday in central Brussels and Schaerbeek were not disclosed, Xinhua reported. A fourth person, Ali E., was arrested in Brussels on Thursday and taken in for questioning. On the same day, two other people, Abu A. and a second individual whose identity has not been made public, were arrested in their car on the Brussels ring road at the exit for Jette. At the same time, Reda K., a 34-year-old Frenchman, was arrested in the Paris region during an operation led by France’s internal security force DGSI. According to Le Monde newspaper, five Kalashnikov rifles, a machine gun, seven handguns and various ammunitions and chemicals were found at his home. In the latest development, a metro station in central Brussels was evacuated on Friday afternoon, local media reported, without further details.

Suspect’s DNA at Paris attack sites

Belgian officials have named the second suicide bomber in Brussels attack at airport as Najim Laachraoui, and said that his DNA was found at sites of Paris attacks. The attacks came days after the arrest of November 13 Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels. Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said on Friday that Abdeslam, who had initially agreed to co-operate with investigators, had ceased to do so. “The federal prosecutor has just informed me that Salah Abdeslam no longer wants to talk since the attacks on Zaventem (airport) and the Brussels metro,” he said. The Islamic State (IS) has said that it carried out both the Brussels and Paris attacks. Brussels attack left more than 30 people killed while at least 130 people were killed in the Paris attacks. Brahim el-Bakraoui has already been named as one of the perpetrators of the airport attack. A third person remains unidentified.

(agencies)

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