Two reported dead in Belgian counter-terrorism raid

BRUSSELS: At least two people were killed when Belgian counter-terrorist police raided an apartment on Thursday, local media said, describing a coordinated, national operation related to last week’s attacks in Paris.

Judiciary officials confirmed only that a counter-terrorism operation took place near the centre of Verviers, a town in the east of the country between the city of Liege and the German border. They plan a news briefing at 8 p.m. (2.00 p.m. EST).

Public radio RTBF, which reported a number of other police actions in and around Brussels, said there were no casualties among the security forces. Two unidentified people were killed and a third seriously wounded. Several others were detained.

Earlier, prosecutors said they had detained a man in Belgium whom they suspected of supplying weaponry to Amedy Coulibaly, killer of four people at a Paris grocery last week.

In a report that could not be immediately confirmed, the Web site of La Meuse newspaper quoted an unidentified police officer saying: “We’ve averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo.”

RTBF said Thursday’s operation in Verviers was intended to check on suspected radicals — one of several being conducted across the country against people believed to have returned to Belgium after taking part in the Syrian civil war.

RTBF said police raids were also under way in Brussels.

“GOLDEN CROISSANT”

Local media said gunshots and several explosions were heard on a residential street in Verviers near the railway station and one photo posted by a witness on Twitter showed police vehicles and ambulances blocking the street. Police had raided an apartment above the Croissant d’Or bakery, RTBF said.

The channel showed video of a building at night lit up by flames, with the sound of shots being fired. A local resident named Marie-Laure told RTBF said she was in the street with her children when a police commando told them to run for cover.

“When we began running, we heard three or four big explosions and shots,” she said. “It was really startling.”

Per head of population, Belgium is the European country from where the highest number of citizens have taken part in fighting for Syrian rebels in the past four years, data compiled by security researchers have shown.