The government abruptly shut down the metro system, canceled sporting events and warned residents to avoid crowded places as Belgium placed the capital on maximum alert early Saturday, citing a “serious and imminent” threat of attack.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Saturday morning that officials had identified shopping centers, public transportation and major events as targets of a possible attack, involving multiple assailants at multiple locations, similar to the deadly assault that struck Paris on Nov. 13.
Searches of homes overnight by police in the immigrant quarter of Molenbeek and other neighborhoods in Brussels uncovered explosives and weapons, the prime minister said. Belgian security officials said it appeared that suspects were planning simultaneous attacks and that this was the reason for raising the threat to its highest level early Saturday. The U.S. Embassy in Brussels also issued a security alert warning U.S. citizens here “to shelter in place and remain at home.” Late Friday, an additional Belgian citizen was charged as an accomplice in connection with the Paris attacks and participation in a terrorist organization. Authorities declined to release his name.