In a stunning wave of arrests, the security forces of France, Belgium, and Germany are rounding up suspected jihadis all over the map, especially those who have returned from the Syrian and Iraqi war zones.
In one case, in the small Belgian town of Verviers near the German border, two alleged jihadis were shot dead and one was wounded in a Thursday night firefight.
A spokesperson for the Belgian prosecutor’s office, Eric van der Sypt, said Friday that the Verviers suspects were believed to be on the verge of launching an attack. Four Kalashnikov automatic rifles were found in their possession along with bomb-making materials. Tellingly, they also had police uniforms. Phone taps of conversations among the suspects reportedly indicated the assault was only hours away.
“They had the intention to kill police, targeting them in the streets and at their offices,” van der Sypt said in Brussels on Friday. “We had been following the cell for a while but decided to intervene because the threat seemed imminent.”
He said this was a strictly Belgian cell, but all of this is taking place in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris last week, when known jihadis who had been under surveillance in the past somehow slipped the attention of law enforcement, acquired weapons of war (reportedly in Belgium), and launched a killing spree that took the lives of 17 victims, including journalists at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police, and Jewish shoppers at a kosher grocery.
What is clear is that the authorities in Europe now believe it is too dangerous to let potential terrorists who have fought and trained abroad continue to roam the streets. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in the aftermath of last week’s attacks, said flatly that his nation is in a state of war.