Belgian paramilitary commandos on patrol near a synagogue in the city of Antwerp on Saturday. AP photo.
BRUSSELS, Belgium – Belgium began deploying hundreds of soldiers on street patrols Saturday, after security forces smashed a suspected Islamist network planning to kill police officers, the country’s prime minister said.
Up to 300 troops are being deployed in the capital Brussels and the city of Antwerp, which has a large orthodox Jewish population, said a statement from the office of Prime Minister Charles Michel.
“The mobilized troops will be armed and their primary responsibility will be to survey certain sites,” reinforcing the police, the statement said, according to Belgian media.
The measures come after raids in Belgium this week on suspected Islamists, including one in the city of Verviers on Thursday that left two suspects dead in a shootout.
European security forces have been on high alert following last week’s deadly attacks on the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, which claimed 17 lives along with those of the three attackers.
More than 20 people have been arrested in Belgium, France and Germany.
Several European leaders have warned about the threat of Islamist citizens returning to their countries from jihads in Iraq and Syria with combat and bomb-making skills.
The raids in Belgium came less than a year after four people were shot dead in an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A French citizen who fought in Syria has been charged with the killings.