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Europe is on high alert over terrorist threat following anti-terror raids and arrests of suspected Islamist militants.

More than 20 people have been arrested in Belgium, France and Germany.

Belgium has joined France in deploying troops alongside police.

Security has been tightened in several countries after last week’s attacks in Paris left 17 people dead.

There are increased concerns about the return of young Europeans who have gone to fight with Middle East militants.

In Belgium, five people were charged on January 16 with “participating in the activities of a terrorist group” following a series of raids that began on Thursday evening and left two suspects dead.

Guns, munitions and explosives, as well as police uniforms and a large amount of money, were all seized by police overnight.

Eric Van Der Sypt, an official at the prosecutors’ office, told AFP that: “The investigation… has shown that these people had the intention to kill several policemen in the street and at police commissariats [police stations].”

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Thirteen people were arrested in total but only five would be prosecuted, he said. Belgium would also seek the extradition of two suspects held in France.

On January 16, the Belgian government also announced new measures to deal with terrorist suspects.

They include making travelling abroad for terrorist activities a crime and expanding the cases where Belgian citizenship can be revoked for dual nationals who are thought to pose a terror risk.

No link has been established between the terrorist plot in Belgium and last week’s attacks in Paris.

French PM Manuel Valls said on January 16 that, despite this, both countries face the same threats.

Twelve suspects are being held by police in the Paris region over last week’s attacks in the French capital that killed 17 people.

Police carried out raids in five towns, iTele reported. Those arrested are now being questioned about “possible logistical support”, such as weapons or vehicles, they could have given the three gunmen, according to police.

France remains on its highest terrorism alert level and authorities have said that some 120,000 police and soldiers have been mobilized across France.

In a separate incident on January 16, authorities shut down and evacuated the Gare de l’Est train station after a bomb scare.

The incidents in France and Belgium have had a wider impact on their European neighbors.

Spain has launched an investigation into the visit of one of the Paris gunmen, Amedy Coulibaly, to Madrid just days before the attacks in Paris.

Police in Germany have also arrested two men following raids on 11 properties on January 16, involving some 250 officers.

One of the men was suspected of leading an extremist group of Turkish and Russian nationals.

Police said that the group was preparing a serious act of violence in Syria but that there was “no indication” that the group had been planning attacks inside Germany.

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Belgium is on high alert after Verviers anti-terror raid in which two suspected Islamist militants were killed.

The suspects were shot dead after they opened fire on police with automatic weapons on Janaury 15.

Officials say they had returned from Syria and planned imminent attacks on police targets. Another suspect was wounded before being arrested.

Searches were also carried out overnight in the Brussels area.

Speaking after yesterday’s raid in Verviers, near the German border, Prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said the terror threat level had been raised to three – the second highest.

Referring to the raid itself, he said: “The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralized.”

After the operation, four Kalashnikovs, bomb-making equipment and police clothing were found, according to local media. Security forces remain in the Verviers area.

Police are expected to provide more details at a briefing on January 16.

“Operations on the ground are now over. We are now exploiting the information [from the overnight anti-terror operations],” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told French TV station iTele.

Photo AP

Photo AP

Some Jewish schools in Antwerp and Brussels were closed on January 16, after they were informed that they could be potential targets, Belgian newspaper Joods Actueel reported.

Anti-terror raids also took place late on Thursday in the capital Brussels and surrounding towns, including Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Anderlecht and Schaerbeek.

Earlier that day, two suspected Islamists were arrested in the Brussels suburb of Zaventem, Belgian media reported.

Belgian officials say more than 300 people have left Belgium to fight with Islamic militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Belgium is thought to have the highest number of foreign fighters per capita in Europe who have taken part in fighting in Syria.

Prosecutors said the suspects in Verviers were believed to have been plotting to attack a police station and cause a large number of casualties.

The area around the train station remains sealed off.

Belgian PM Charles Michel said the security operation “shows the government’s determination to fight those who want to spread terror”, his spokesman said.

Verviers is in the province of Liege, close to the German border, and has a population of about 56,000.

The incident comes a week after attacks in neighboring France that killed 17 people. Belgian media has reported that some of the weapons used in those attacks were bought in Brussels.

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Two died in an anti-terror operation in Verviers, eastern Belgium, local officials say.

A third person was wounded in the raid, according to Belgian TV. Several arrests were made.

A source in the mayor’s office told AFP news agency that “an operation is under way”. Another official said the raid was “jihadist-related”.

Unconfirmed reports said raids were also taking place in Brussels and elsewhere in Belgium.

In Verviers, witnesses reported hearing heavy gunfire for several minutes and at least three explosions.Verviers Belgium anti terror operation

The area around the train station has been cordoned off and reports on social media say there is a heavy police presence in the town centre.

Media reports suggested those targeted were suspected jihadists who had returned from Syria.

Verviers is in the province of Liege and has a population of about 56,000.

The incident comes a week after attacks in neighboring France that killed 17 people.

Belgian media has reported that some of the weapons used in the attacks in Paris were bought near the Midi train station in Brussels.

The attacks – on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher market and a police officer – have heightened security fears in several European countries.

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