Europe terror arrests: Five charged after Belgium raids as Europol admits difficulty of tracking 'thousands of potential terrorists'

Security has been increased in London's Jewish communities

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The Independent Online

Five people have been charged with terror offences in Belgium after two suspected jihadists were shot dead in raids across the country.

They are accused of “participating in the activities” of an unnamed terrorist organisation.

Three suspects are being held in custody while two have been bailed and another 13 people detained during Thursday’s crackdown have been released without charge.

It came as Belgian authorities said they had averted a “second potential Paris” by foiling an imminent terror attack on police using guns and bombs.

Eric Van der Sypt, a federal magistrate, said: “The investigation... has shown that these people had the intention to kill several policemen in the street and at police stations.

"The operation was meant to dismantle a terrorist cell...but also the logistics network behind it."

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Belgian police inspect the entrance of an apartment in central Verviers, a town between Liege and the German border

Special forces who raided a property in the town of Verviers on Thursday, killing the two men as snipers patrolled the rooftops, found Kalashnikovs, handguns, ammunition, falsified documents, cash and bomb-making equipment among police uniforms, suggesting the attackers planned to disguise themselves.

The dead suspects' identities have not been officially confirmed but authorities said they were believed to recently have fought for an Islamist group in Syria.

Belgian newspaper Sudpresse reported that the families of Redwane Hajaoui, also known as Abu Khalid al-Maghribi, and Tarik Jadaoun, also known as Abu Hamza Belgiki, were concerned.

On the night of their deaths, anti-terror operations were being launched across Europe.

French police arrested 12 people suspected of providing "logistical support" to the three gunmen who shot dead 12 people at Charlie Hebdo's offices, a police officer and four hostages at a Jewish supermarket.

In Germany, two men were arrested on suspicion of recruiting fighters to join Isis in Syria and a 14-year-old Austrian boy was detained for allegedly planning to fight with the extremist group in the Syrian war.

And in Ireland, police arrested a suspected French-Algerian militant at Dublin Airport as he tried to enter the country using a fake passport. The man was put on a European watch list after expressing support in social media for last week's attacks.

The head of Europol, Rob Wainwright, told the BBC that the operations highlighted the complex nature of the terrorist threat across Europe.

"We're dealing with multiple thousands of potential terrorists," he added.

He told the Associated Press that foiling attacks by returning jihadists had become "extremely difficult" because Europe's estimated 2,500 to 5,000 radicalised Muslim extremists have little command structure and are increasingly sophisticated.

The heightened tensions have sparked concerns for the UK’s Jewish community, prompting the Metropolitan Police to consider increased patrols in key areas.

Berlin-arrests.jpgMark Rowley, the force’s Assistant Commissioner, said there had been "anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists".

"In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas,” he told the BBC.

On Friday, Jewish charity the Community Security Trust (CST) said police had stressed to them that there was “no specific intelligence” suggesting an imminent attack.

It had requested extra policing for the Jewish community in the wake of the Paris attacks and after receiving an “unprecedented number of calls” from concerned members of the community over the last week.

“We hope that the increased police presence, alongside CST patrols, will help to reassure the Jewish community as they go about their lives during this difficult time,” a spokesperson for the CST said.

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Members of the Jewish 'Shomrim' security patrol team are pictured in north London

About 20 representatives from multiple religions have also held a meeting at the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regents Park Mosque to promote solidarity following the terror attacks and global discussions about extremism.

The Muslim Council of Britain had already asked communities to react to the controversial cover of the latest Charlie Hebdo with “patience and tolerance”.

British police commanders are also considering increased protection for themselves after officers became targets in France and Belgium.

Additional reporting by AP

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