Shots were exchanged in a search carried out by police in the early hours of the morning at an address in Merksem, in the province of Antwerp. One suspect has been killed by the police.
The police operation targeted a small group with suspected links to violent far-right extremism. Investigators searched the address looking for weapons, notably homemade weapons. In addition to suspected arms trafficking, the suspects are also believed to have attempted to commit a terrorist attack.
The federal prosecutor’s office states that a total of 10 searches were conducted across the province of Antwerp this morning, turning up a large number of illegal firearms. Federal investigators are currently investigating the circumstances of the shoot-out with police officers.
Antwerp is currently experiencing a wave of violence linked to organised criminal gangs. The police have promised to get tough on violent criminals, giving local authorities and police forces new powers to crack down on organised crime.
This criminal gang is not believed to be linked to the kidnap plot against Belgian Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne.
A report published last year warned that right-wing extremism is growing at an alarming rate in Belgium. While Jihadism is still the leading threat, an annual report by the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAD) showed that the threat from far-right extremists had witnessed a “steep rise.”