UPDATE: 10:02 a.m. EST — Ayoub Bazarouj, 22, was identified Thursday as one of six suspects arrested for an alleged plot to attack Brussels on New Year’s Eve, a source close to the investigation told Belgian newspaper Le Soir. It was also reported Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects in the November Paris attacks that left 130 people dead, was a close family friend of Bazarouj.
Bazarouj, who was born in Belgium, was known to police for drugs and petty theft, Le Soir reported. Bazarouj’s family is considered radicalized, and one of his brothers reportedly left for Syria about a year ago to join the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. Photos allegedly depicting Fatima Bazarouj, Ayoub's sister, show her in Syria with her two children.
Bazarouj’s other brother, Youssef Bazarouj, is accused of being one of the shooters in the Paris attacks, Le Soir reported. Bazarouj’s involvement hasn’t been confirmed, but he reportedly was caught on surveillance cameras from one of the restaurants attacked in Paris.
Hours after Belgian authorities canceled New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks in the capital of Brussels, police arrested six people in an alleged plot to attack the city New Year’s Eve. Police arrested the suspects during a series of raids in the Brussels suburbs, one of which was Molenbeek, used as a base by Islamic radicals who carried out attacks in Paris in November, the BBC reported Thursday.
The Paris terror attacks — for which the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility — have increased security concerns across the globe, especially with New Year’s Eve celebrations scheduled in various major cities internationally. Heightened security measures are scheduled to be put in place for many large-scale celebrations Thursday night, including the famous New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square in Manhattan.
A judge will determine Thursday if the six should be kept for further evaluation or released, Agence France-Presse reported. During the raids in which the six were arrested, police seized mobile phones, computer equipment and airsoft gun material.
The six brought in for questioning brings the total number of people held in the attack case to eight. Two men were charged with terrorism-related offenses earlier this week.
The annual Brussels fireworks display attracted 100,000 people during last year’s celebration at the Place de Brouckere, but this year Belgians will have to find somewhere else to spend the holiday, ABC News reported. "It's better not to take any risks," Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said.
— Financial Times (@FT) December 31, 2015
Turkish officials also said they thwarted a possible attack in the capital of Ankara on New Year’s Eve in arresting two suicide bombers Wednesday. In October, two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Ankara, killing 103 people.
For New York’s Times Square celebration, some 6,000 police officers are expected to be dispatched, about 500 more than last year. Some of these officers will include members of the new antiterror force, the Critical Response Command.