Brussels was on terror lockdown on Saturday, with a gunman still on the run after the Paris attacks that have sent waves of fear throughout Europe.
The Belgian capital closed its metro system and shuttered shopping centres as a terror alert was raised to its highest level over reports of an “imminent threat” of a gun and bomb attack similar to the horror seen in Paris last week.
Brussels-based jihadists are increasingly at the heart of the Paris investigation and police have multiplied raids in the city’s poorest districts in a rush to round up suspects before they disappear or launch fresh attacks.
Investigators are working around the clock to track Salah Abdeslam, one of the gunmen who is still on the loose after a coordinated wave of attacks on Parisian nightspots that left 130 people dead on November 13.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said authorities feared a “Paris-style” attack “with explosives and weapons at several locations” despite the hundreds of soldiers patrolling Brussels that is also home to the EU and NATO.
The carnage in Paris has put all of Europe on edge as it emerged dangerous jihadists slipped between countries unnoticed, with France extending a ban on public gatherings until November 30, the start of a UN climate summit.
Turkey has detained a Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin, Ahmet Dahmani, 26, who is believed to have helped choose the sites for the Paris attacks, the Dogan news agency reported on Saturday.
The UN Security Council on Friday authorised nations to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic State (IS) jihadists and other extremist groups after a wave of attacks across the world left hundreds dead in a matter of weeks.
The UN resolution came after jihadist gunmen with an Al-Qaeda branch run by a notorious one-eyed militant besieged a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako, holding hostages for nine hours and killing 19 people, including two Belgians.
Mali was struck a week after Paris and Beirut — where 44 people were killed in IS bombings — and three weeks after IS claimed to have downed a Russian plane in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula killing all 224 on board.
– A minute of non-silence –
In grieving Paris, citizens defiantly poured into the streets and on to cafe terraces Friday night to mark one week since the carnage, with a noisy minute of non-silence as urged by several artists in the country.
Outside La Belle Equipe restaurant where 18 people were gunned down, a crowd stood under a light rain around a heap of flowers and candles singing the Marseillaise anthem before whooping and yelling at the top of their voices at 9:20 pm (2020 GMT), when the attacks started.
Benoit Seblain, drinking a beer at a cafe not far from the Bataclan where 89 people were massacred at a rock concert, admitted he was “a bit afraid”.
“But we told ourselves we have to try and live like we did before,” he told AFP.
The country has been shaken to its core by a dramatic week which began with the attacks and saw a violent shootout on Wednesday between police and jihadists holed up in a Paris apartment.
Suspected attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in the police assault along with his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen and an unidentified suicide bomber.
Police on Saturday released seven people arrested during the siege, but kept hold of d Jawad Bendaoud, who has admitted lending the apartment to two people from Belgium “as a favour”.
Abaaoud was a notorious Belgian jihadist thought to be fighting in Syria and his presence in Europe raised troubling questions about a breakdown in intelligence and border security.
The European Union agreed Friday to rush through reforms to the passport-free Schengen zone by the end of the year and immediately tighten border controls.
Prosecutors said Friday that two of the three men who blew themselves up near the Stade de France stadium — the first of the wave of attacks — may have entered Europe through Greece, posing as refugees fleeing the Syrian war.
Seven attackers were killed or blew themselves up during their assault on Paris.
– ‘A very serious threat’ –
Another, Salah Abdeslam, is believed to have fled to Belgium and a huge manhunt is under way to find him.
His brother Brahim blew himself up outside a Paris bar.
Both grew up in the poor Molenbeek district of Brussels, described as an extremist hotbed, before going to join the Islamic State group in Syria.
Belgium’s OCAM national crisis centre raised its alert level to 4 early Saturday, “signifying a very serious threat for the Brussels region”.
The centre urged citizens to avoid crowded areas such as concerts and transport hubs in Belgium’s capital and recommended that authorities in the Brussels region “consider cancelling major events” in order to free up police.
Elementary school cheer squad parents raffling off an AM-15 automatic weapon as a fundraiser
Just weeks after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, only 200 miles away in Richmond, the cheer squad is selling raffle tickets to sell a semi-automatic gun.
Fox19 reported Wednesday that the Junior Lions Cheer Team have infuriated Heather Chilton, who's 7-year-old daughter is on the squad for the first time.
"This is absurd, you're having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?" Chilton said. "I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it — got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I'm the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?"
I think Trump’s people sit around ‘thinking up new ways to be cruel’: Senator
On Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "All In," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) tore into the Trump administration for its treatment of migrant children, as yet more reports come in of children being denied basic services in squalid conditions, and as Trump considers ways to get around the federal consent decree placing limits on how long they can be detained.
"We already know from so many child specialists that detaining children in these kinds of facilities does irreparable damage to them," said Hirono. "There are alternatives to family detention this administration could care less about ... the only way to get around the consent agreement is by getting around it by proposing or having this rule, which will be immediately challenged. They want to detain families indefinitely, children indefinitely, held in situations that do them absolutely no good when there are alternatives."
Maddow: You have to watch what the lying White House does — and not what they say
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow opened her show with a quick assessment of her thoughts on the ridiculous that the president of the United States regurgitated into the mouths of his supporters Wednesday.
She began by noting that they don't do press briefings at the White House anymore; instead, they've turned to talking to the president directly as he enters or exits the building to go off on his campaign trips or vacations.
"Today the president held a long one of these," she said. "One of the ones where he tried to push everyone's buttons, the president is denouncing the prime minister of our allied Denmark. He's calling her nasty. That will get some headlines. The president attacked American Jews for a second straight day today, saying they have dual loyalty because they're Jews. Americans of other religions don't have that dual loyalty or his suspicions of dual loyalty, Jewish-Americans do, because of their religion."