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France on edge after anti-jihadist raids near Paris, in Belgium and in Germany

Belgian police inspect the entrance to the building in Verviers where the shootout with jihadist gunmen took place
Belgian police inspect the entrance to the building in Verviers where the shootout with jihadist gunmen took place Reuters/Francois Lenoir

France was on edge on Friday following arrests in several European countries overnight. Twelve people suspected of helping kosher supermarket killer Amedy Coulibaly were arrested in France, while Belgian police said they prevented “imminent” attacks.

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Police sealed off a street in Reims after reports that an armed man had been seen on a balcony but his weapon turned out to be a replica of a rifle.

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Later in the day a hostage-taking was reported in a post office in Colombes, near Paris, although police said no link with armed Islamist groups had been established as they responded to the emergency.

A man already known to police for criminal activity had taken two hostages and claimed to be heavily armed.

He was arrested later in the day and no injuries were reported.

Twelve people – eight men and four women - were arrested overnight in the Paris region, police said.

They were suspected of helping Coulibaly in last Friday’s attack on a kosher supermarket in which he killed four people.

A number of people have been investigated over the last few days because their DNA has been found in the car Coulibaly used or in his supposed hideout or because of phone-tapping, a police source told the AFP news agency.

Two Islamist suspects were shot dead and another arrested during a gun battle in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers on Thursday night and 12 other people were arrested elsewhere in the country as police foiled what they said was a plot to kill police officers on the street or in police stations.

Kalshnikov assault rifles, explosives, ammunition, communications and police uniforms were found.

The three men involved in the shootout had recently returned from Syria and were preparing attacks within hours, according to Belgian media.

They were planning to kidnap and behead a top police officer or magistrate him, according to Laatste Nieuws newspaper.

Jewish schools in Brussels and Antwerp were closed and classes cancelled on the grounds that they were potential targets.

Both Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there was no link with the Paris attacks.

“The link that exists is the terrorists’ intention to attack our values and our fellow citzens,” Valls commented on a visit to Quimper in western France.
 

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