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Belgian police arrest 16, Salah Abdeslam not caught: prosecutor

BRUSSELS: Belgian police arrested 16 people during a series of raids on Sunday after a huge security lockdown, but Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was not among them, prosecutors said.

“Sixteen people were arrested” including one person who was injured after police opened fire on a car that drove towards police, federal prosecutor spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told a press conference.

“Salah Abdeslam was not caught during the raids,” he added.

Nineteen raids were carried out in various Brussels neighbourhoods including Molenbeek — a poor immigrant district where Adbeslam is from.

Police made three other raids in the industrial town of Charleroi, where an international airport is sited.

No weapons or explosives were found in the raids, prosecutors said.

A judge will decide on Monday whether to continue detaining them, they added.

The prosecutor said it was not immediately clear if the person injured in the car, which they eventually stopped in the centre of Brussels, was linked to the Paris attacks case.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced earlier that Brussels will remain at the highest possible alert level Monday, with schools, universities and metros closed over a “serious and imminent” threat of attacks similar to those that struck Paris.

Belgian police urged the media and residents to respect a social media blackout during a series of police operations late Sunday as security forces continued to hunt for Abdeslam, a key suspect in last week’s atrocities in the French capital.

Armed officers and troops could be seen patrolling the near-deserted streets of Brussels all weekend after the government raised the terror alert to the highest level of four in the city of more than a million that is also home to the NATO and European Union headquarters.

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