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Brussels schools, metro reopen under tight security

With police hunting prime suspect in Paris attacks, authorities are still on high alert for further violence

Schools and much of the Brussels metro system reopened Wednesday as the Belgian capital started to return to normal after four days of lockdown, but troops on the street were a reminder it remains on the highest alert.

With police still hunting a Brussels native, who is a prime suspect in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, along with up to 10 others authorities fear could be planning further violence, the government only plans to review the alert status next week.

The city's schools were protected by 300 additional officers, some of whom were standing guard outside school gates as parents dropped their children off.

Around half the city's metro stations were open, notably in the center, with some 200 soldiers assigned to protect them.

Commercial and public life came almost to a halt over the weekend. Salah Abdeslam, 26, is on the run, suspected of being the eighth person to take part in the attacks on Paris that killed 130 people.

The Belgian government says he may be armed and dangerous and could be plotting further attacks.

More than two dozen people have been detained in Brussels since Nov. 13, though all but five have been released. They have been charged with terrorist offenses, including three who drove Abdeslam in their cars after the attacks in Paris.

Concerts and sporting events have been canceled but the weekend's Davis Cup tennis final between Belgium and Britain is due to go ahead as planned in Ghent, west of the capital. 

In nearby Bruges, however, the mayor ordered that Thursday's Europa League soccer match between Club Bruges and the Italian side Napoli should be held in an empty stadium because police were too tied up with other duties to provide crowd control.

Concerns about how long the problems may last were also evident. A large New Year's party at an exhibition center in Brussels has been canceled, the event's organizers said.

A Belgian government minister said Wednesday that the security forces staged a series of raids late Sunday to avoid an imminent attack in Brussels.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon said that “indeed, there were indications that there would be attacks on Sunday evening and they did not materialize.”

The minister told VRT network that “otherwise, you don't impose terror level 4,” the highest possible level when the threat is assessed as “serious and imminent.”

Jambon refused to elaborate what kind of attacks the government believed had been planned. 

Wire services 

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Belgium, France

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