Belgium’s capital locked down early on November 21 as the country raised its threat levels amidst fears of an impending terror attack.
The city’s metro system was shut down entirely as wide swaths of the city saw shops close, shopping malls scale back services, and live events like concerts and pro soccer matches get canceled or postponed.
The lockdown was based on fears that a Paris-style attack could happen, said Belgian prime minister Charles Michel.
“Following a new assessment, the terror alert level has been raised to level four, very serious, for the Brussels region,” said a government statement. “Analysis shows a serious and imminent threat that requires taking specific security measures as well as specific recommendations for the public.”
The fear was that “several individuals with arms and explosives could launch an attack… perhaps even in several places,” Michel told reporters.
The exact intelligence wasn’t made public as of this writing. Officials said releasing more information could jeopardize investigations, reported the Wall Street Journal.
But the heightened alert level is thought to be at least in part to the fact that officials fear Salah Abdeslam, the Paris terrorist who killed in the attacks but “chickened out” of blowing himself up, is hiding in the Brussels area.
The mayor of Brussels ordered all restaurants and cafes to close at 6 p.m. local time, and the U.S. European Command issues a 72-hour travel restriction on travel to the city by all military personnel and civilian employees.
Some shops had already closed for the day while others stayed open but under heavy armed guard, reported BBC.
The lockdown came a day after Belgian police arrested a man charged in connection with the Paris attacks and found weapons at his home. Two other men, who allegedly drove Abdeslam back to Belgium from France in a rental car, have been taken into custody.