— The authorities in Belgium
have warned security services that the Islamic State might be planning an imminent attack, with a group of extremists having departed Syria
and divided into groups, headed for Belgium and France
The warning was reported on Wednesday by the Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, which said the police and other security officials had received an alert saying that “combatants left Syria about a week and a half ago in order to reach Europe
, by boat, without passports.”
It added: “These people have separated into two groups, one heading for Belgium and the other for France, in order to commit attacks in groups of two.”
Belgian officials tried to play down the report.
The Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis, which reviews and evaluates intelligence and other terrorism-related information for Belgium, said in a statement that the information, leaked to the newspaper, “had not been contextualized, and in its current form has no direct impact on the current threat level.”
The agency did not raise Belgium’s terrorist-threat level. Brussels, the capital
, was virtually shut down in November, after attacks in and near Paris killed 130 people and the authorities warned of the possibility of an attack in Belgium.
Officials did not dispute the authenticity of the communiqué quoted by La Dernière Heure, which described the would-be assailants as armed and poised to attack.
Among the more than a dozen possible Belgian targets were embassies, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, concert halls and pedestrian streets, according to the communiqué.
When pressed about the information, Paul Van Tigchelt, the director of the threat-coordinating body, described it as “raw intelligence.”
However, with the Euro 2016 soccer tournament underway in France and drawing huge crowds to city centers and areas around the stadiums where games are played, the report from Belgium seemed consistent with assessments by security officials that France faces a persistent and serious risk.
French officials did not respond specifically to the Belgian report. But Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France, speaking on France Inter radio Wednesday morning, made clear that the country must be prepared for more attacks.
“Other innocent people will lose their lives,” he said. “You could accuse me of making society even more anxious than it already is, given all the events that have happened, but sadly, this is the reality.”
He was referring not only to the November attacks but also to the fatal stabbing on Monday of a police officer and his companion by an extremist who claimed loyalty to the Islamic State.
“This is generational, we have hundreds of individuals who are radicalized,” Mr. Valls said.
There was no change to the threat level in France on Wednesday. The country has maintained a state of emergency since the Nov. 13 attacks and considers the risk of attack very high.