Authorities in Brussels Thwart Planned New Year’s Eve Terrorist Attack

Authorities in Brussels arrested two individuals Sunday and Monday who were planning an attack in the Belgian capital city on New Year’s Eve, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.

Belgian authorities confirmed the two suspects were inspired by Islamic State, according to a counterterrorism official who spoke with CNN Tuesday.

Belgian authorities conducted several raids throughout the cities of Brussels and Liege. Military uniforms and ISIS propaganda was found over the course of the multiple raids targeting the two suspects as well as others, the Belgian daily Le Soir reported. Le Soir detailed its sources said the main target of the attacks would have been Brussels’ historic main square, the Grande Place.

Authorities have not released any information about the two suspects including their ages, names or nationalities, but a senior counterterrorism official in Belgium told CNN the suspects were part of a Muslim biker gang. The gang is called the “Kamikaze Riders” and is known to have ties to Islamic extremism.

Neither suspect had previously been suspected of engaging in acts of terrorism. However, one suspect was previously known to authorities for involvement in petty crime. It is also reported they were trying to recruit individuals to join their two-man terror cell.

Both suspects came from the neighborhood of Anderlecht, according to Belgian news outlet RTBF. Anderlecht is known for a great deal of criminal activity. Four other suspects were also briefly detained but then quickly released by authorities.

The city of Brussels is on level three terror alert which is the second highest level in the country. Level three terror alert means a terrorist attack is “possible and likely” while level four terror alert means “serious and imminent,” according to International Business Times.

Belgium has been on the aforementioned level three alert and was briefly on level four terror alert ever since the Nov. 13 ISIS attacks in Paris. Belgians make up the highest number of foreign fighters who have joined ISIS per capita out of all European Union member states. Two Belgian brothers were involved in the attacks, one of them was a suicide bomber and the other fled to Brussels where he found refuge in the city.

No link has been established by the authorities between the two suspects arrested Sunday and Monday with the Paris attacks.