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Paris terror attacks suspects arrested in Turkey; Belgium on high alert

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PARIS — Turkish authorities arrested three people with suspected ties to ISIS in last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, CNN Turk reported Saturday.

It identified one of the suspects as Ahmet Dahmani, 26, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, who allegedly scouted target sites for the Paris attacks. He was arrested at a hotel in Antalya, CNN Turk reported.

Two other suspects, Syrian nationals Ahmet Tahir, 29, and Mohammed Verd, 23, were arrested after they traveled from Syria to meet Dahmani, authorities said. The two were going to transport him to Syria, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Belgian capital of Brussels was put on the country’s highest terror alert level Saturday, with authorities warning of an imminent threat.

The warning, from the Crisis Centre of the Belgian Interior Ministry, cites “a serious and imminent threat that requires taking specific security measures as well as specific recommendations for the population.” It advises the public to avoid places where large groups gather — such as concerts, sporting events, airports and train stations — and comply with security checks.

The city’s underground metro service will not be running Saturday and other public transit will be operating on a limited schedule, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Belgian authorities said they arrested one person Friday as part of investigations into the deadly November 13 Paris attacks.

The arrest happened in the impoverished Brussels suburb of Molenbeek. The person’s home was searched, and a few weapons were found, but no explosives, Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said. No further information about the arrest was released.

Referring to Brussels’ alert level, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said then authorities’ prime objective is to reduce the number of large events in order to free up police officers to secure Brussels.

Michel added that “given the large number of people” taking the subway, the Crisis Centre of the Belgian Interior Ministry recommended that service halt until Sunday afternoon, when the next evaluation takes place.

Outside of Brussels, the rest of the nation will maintain its current terrorism level.

Why now?

If people take the alert seriously, Brussels will be “shut down” Saturday, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.

“It suggests they have something specific and credible at the intelligence front pointing them in the direction that there may be a terrorist plot in the works,” he said. “It also suggests they don’t have a handle on it, that they don’t know where these plotters are or where they’re coming from.”

The increase in the alert level for Brussels comes as authorities investigating last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris conduct raids in Belgium. They are working to identify and take down the network of terrorists behind the carnage.

The U.S. State Department advised Americans there to be cautious.

The man they’re looking for

Salah Abdeslam, 26, is the subject of an international search warrant. He was last seen driving toward the Belgian border, when police stopped and questioned him a few hours after the attacks, not knowing that he was allegedly involved. His whereabouts are unknown.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam is one of two brothers allegedly involved in last week’s coordinated attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, outside the French national soccer stadium and at restaurants in Paris. Although he’ is a French national, he was born in Belgium.

Fertile ground

That is one of several connections between the Paris attacks and Belgium, a country seen as fertile ground for jihadist recruiters. Members of a suspected terrorist cell waged a deadly gunbattle in January with police in Belgium.

And Belgium is where three Americans in August overpowered a radical Islamist gunman on a Paris-bound train.

The country was also home to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is suspected of having been the ringleader of the attacks in Paris. Abaaoud was killed during a raid that shook the Saint-Denis neighborhood outside Paris and collapsed an entire floor of an apartment building.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Abaaoud “played a decisive role” in the Paris attacks and played a part in four of six terrorist attacks foiled since spring, with one alleged jihadist claiming Abaaoud had trained him personally.

Abaaoud was once allegedly involved in gangs in Molenbeek. Because of that impoverished Brussels suburb’s links to terrorist plots, Belgian special operations forces conducted raids there Monday.

On Thursday, Belgian authorities detained nine people in raids across the country, the federal prosecutor’s office said. Seven of them were questioned after six raids around Brussels related to Bilal Hadfi, one of the men who blew himself up outside the Stade de France.

France’s state of emergency

On Friday, the French Parliament extended the country’s state of emergency by three months, following last week’s terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

France’s constitutional council still has to review the bill, but no problems are expected..

Authorities had been using the state of emergency declared by President Francois Hollande to carry out a widespread clampdown on potential terrorist threats, detaining dozens of people, putting more than 100 others under house arrest and seizing an array of weapons.

Since the attacks last Friday, 164 people considered dangerous have been placed under house arrest, according to Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Woman didn’t kill herself

Also, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced that Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the woman found dead after the police raid in Saint-Denis, did not blow herself up as previously thought.

Instead, a man wearing a suicide device was the one that detonated, the prosecutor’s office told CNN.

Boulahcen, 26, was a relative of Abaaoud, official sources in France told CNN.

Wider counterterrorism efforts

The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution offered by France that is intended to gather international support for counterterrorism efforts, specifically aimed at ISIS.

The resolution calls on member states to take all necessary measures in compliance with international law to “redouble and coordinate their efforts.

Hollande said he would appeal to world leaders to form a wider coalition to go after ISIS, including in meetings next week with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.