Terror suspect shot and arrested in Brussels police operation linked to 'new attack plot' uncovered in France

The man was reportedly shot in the leg before being arrested by a tram stop

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The Independent Online

A terror suspect has been “neutralised” during a police operation in Brussels as investigations continue into Tuesday's bombings and a new plot uncovered in France.

Witnesses described hearing at least two explosions and gunfire at the start of the raid in Schaerbeek on Friday, where the man was shot and detained by police.

Belgium's public broadcaster, RBTF, reported that he was carrying a bag believed to contain explosives and had briefly taken a woman and child hostage.

Footage of the raid showed him lying injured on the ground by tram tracks as a bomb disposal robot approached.

A local resident who gave his name as Marios told the BBC he heard gunshots.

“I heard two very loud shots, I don't know what they were,” he said. “Immediately within seconds police arrived...the streets were evacuated.”

Bernard Clerfayt, the mayor of Schaerbeek, said a suspect was shot in the leg and had been arrested.

He added that all blasts were controlled explosions carried out as a precaution by specialist bomb squads, who were seen operating a robot in the area.

Belgian police were filmed dragging the shot suspect along a tramway platform in Schaerbeek, Belgium, March 25, 2016. (Reuters)

Residents were told to stay inside and nearby trams were evacuated as soldiers and police put a large security cordon in place.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said the man was one of three people detained after a new terror plot was uncovered in France.

Reda Kriket, 34, was arrested in Argenteuil, Paris, on Thursday night over allegations he was at an “advanced stage” of planning an attack. 

The French national was convicted for membership of a jihadist network in absentia last year, alongside Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and had been wanted under a European arrest warrant since August last year. 

The operation that saw Kriket detained led to a search in Forest, Brussels, where a suspect named as Tawfik A was wounded in the leg and arrested.

Another raid in Saint-Gilles saw a person named as Salah A held by police and Friday afternoon’s operation in Avenue Rogier, Schaerbeek, was the last.

Officials did not name the arrested man or confirm reports he was carrying explosives but said he had been injured in the leg.

Six other people had been arrested overnight as part of ongoing investigations into Tuesday's attacks, with three subsequently being released.

Two more suspects were arrested in Germany, including one who received suspicious phone messages containing the name of the Metro station bomber and the word “fin” - French for “end” - three minutes before the blast, Der Spiegel reported. 

Police use a robotic device as they take part in a search in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek following Tuesday's bombings in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016. (Reuters)

Isis suicide bombers killed at least 31 people and wounded almost 300 more in blasts at Brussels Airport and Maelbeek Metro station.

Investigators believe the massacres may have been carried out by the same terror cell responsible for the Paris attacks in November.

DNA analysis has confirmed that suspected Isis bomb maker Najim Laachraoui, 24, was one of two men who blew themselves up in the departures terminal.

He was caught on CCTV alongside Brahim el-Bakraoui wheeling a suitcase bomb on a luggage trolley. 

The unidentified third man seen with them did not detonate his device and is still at large after fleeing the scene.

Airport CCTV shows the suspects, including the suspected third attacker, right (Belgian Federal Police )

Khalid el-Bakraoui, Brahim’s brother, detonated another bomb at Maelbeek Metro station little over an hour later.

The brothers were reportedly known to US security agencies over links to terror networks, while Laachraoui was already wanted for his role in  Paris attacks.

Using the alias Soufiane Kayal, he was caught with Salah Abdeslam and another Isis recruit at the Austrian border in September and is known to have travelled to Syria in 2013.

He rented a safe house in Auvelais where extremists prepared for November’s massacres and his DNA was also found at a Schaerbeek safe house and on explosive vests used at the Bataclan and Stade de France. 

Prosecutors have not said how many attackers there were in total, or how many accomplices might be at large. 

Additional reporting by agencies