Schools and public transit will remain shuttered Monday in Brussels amid a “serious and imminent” threat of a terror attack on the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Charles Michel announced Sunday.
“We fear an attack like in Paris, with several individuals, perhaps in several places,” he told reporters at a press conference.
Authorities initially closed stores and the metro system Saturday after the government raised the country’s state of alert to the highest level possible.
“The result of relatively precise information pointed to the risk of an attack along the lines of what took take place in Paris,” Michel said at a news conference.
“We are talking about the threat that several individuals with arms and explosives would launch an attack perhaps in several locations at the same time,” he said.
While encouraging residents not to panic, the government’s crisis center told people in Brussels, a city of 1.2 million, to avoid places where crowds gather, including shopping malls, transit hubs, concerts and sporting events.
The threat on civilians in Belgium comes one week after the terror assault on Paris, during which groups of attackers linked to the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, killed at least 130 people in a series of coordinated attacks on the French capital.
One of the men being sought in connection with the Paris assault, Salah Abdeslam, was last seen crossing into Belgium and is on the run.
Police in Brussels are “actively looking for him,” a spokesman for the Belgian prosecutor’s office told Politico on Friday.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon told broadcaster VRT that even if Abdeslam is apprehended, the threat to Belgium will remain high, Reuters reported.
“It is a threat that goes beyond just that one person,” Jambon said. “We are following the situation minute by minute. There’s no point in hiding it, there is a real threat.”
Prime Minister Michel told legislators Thursday the government must do more to fight against Islamic extremism, which has taken hold in the central European country.
Belgium has few border controls and shares a common language with France, a main target of jihadist militants, the Associated Press reported.
NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan reported Friday from Paris that the French Senate voted to extend the country’s state of emergency for another 90 days.
This measure allows French police to enter a suspect’s residence with permission from the Interior Ministry, circumventing the criminal justice system.
A public opinion poll published this week found 84 percent of those surveyed in France said they were “ready to accept more controls and a certain limitation of freedoms” in order to combat terrorism, Reuters reported.
“Security is the first of all freedoms,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.