Belgian special forces police block a street in central Verviers.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BRUSSELS -- Belgian police killed two men who opened fire on them during one of about a dozen raids on Thursday against a group that was about to launch "terrorist attacks on a grand scale," a federal prosecutor told a news conference.
A third man was arrested during the operation in the eastern town of Verviers, Eric Van Der Sypt added, saying there was, for the time being, no direct connection to last week's attacks in Paris. No police were injured in the operation, he said.
"The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralized," he said.
Judiciary officials confirmed only that a counter-terrorism operation had taken place near the center of the town, in the east of the country between the city of Liege and the German border.
RTBF said it was an operation intended to check on suspected radicals -- one of several being conducted against people believed to have returned to Belgium after taking part in the Syrian civil war.
Belgium has seen significant radical Islamist activity among its Muslim population.
Local media said gunshots and several explosions were heard on a residential street in Verviers near the railway station and one photo posted by a witness on Twitter showed police vehicles and ambulances blocking the street.
The raid came after prosecutors said earlier on Thursday that Belgian authorities have detained a man for arms dealing and were investigating whether he supplied one of the Islamist gunmen who together killed 17 people in Paris last week.
Belgian media reported that a man had handed himself in to police
in the southern city of Charleroi on Tuesday, saying he had been in touch with Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who took hostages in a Jewish supermarket in the French capital and was later killed by security forces.