The suspected terror cell that was the target of a raid in Belgium on Thursday “received instructions from ISIS”, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN.
Public broadcaster RTBF reported earlier that there were three deaths in the raid and said explosions were heard at the scene.
European security services in recent weeks have received indications that ISIS may have started directing European extremists in Syria and Iraq to launch terrorist attacks back in their home countries, the Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN.
The official said security agencies in several European countries were intensely investigating several groups of returnees from Syria and Iraq, including the group that authorities confronted in Belgium.
There was no suggestion the returnees are connected with the Kouachi brothers, who carried out the attack on Charlie Hebdo, nor Amedy Coulibaly, the man who attacked a Paris kosher supermarket and also pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The official described the move as an apparent significant shift by the terrorist group. Before the air campaign against it, they said, there was little indication the ISIS leadership was directly plotting attacks in the West. Instead they said the group prioritized its project to create an Islamic caliphate.
The official named France, the UK and Belgium as countries facing a particular threat. Counterterrorism agencies in Germany are also on high alert because of the number of fighters who have traveled. Several European countries, including Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are participating in the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq.
ISIS has been engaged in intensive recruiting targeting a western audience, leading to growing concerns among Western countries that these recruits will bring back terrorism to their home countries.
Source material can be found at this site.