After at least three outbursts of gunfire in Belgium, police are now in a standoff with suspects who may be linked to last November's Paris attacks. Both Belgian and French police are involved in the operation, which has now left at least four officers wounded.
Two outbursts of gunfire were reported around 3 p.m. local time, with the third reported more than an hour later. The suspects used Kalashnikov assault rifles, according to Belgian media outlets that also say one police officer was seriously wounded.
The number of suspects has fluctuated in reports, between two and three. In an assault that occurred after 6 p.m. local time, one of the suspects was "neutralized," according to Belgian site RTL.
From Brussels, Teri Schultz reports for our Newscast unit:
"Police ordered the gunmen to surrender after they took refuge in a home in a Brussels suburb which is now cordoned off and flooded with law enforcement. Three police were injured when they came under heavy-weapons fire while carrying out a raid linked to the Paris attacks.
"Several of the perpetrators of those killings came from Belgium — one surviving attacker is known to have returned to Brussels and has been on the run ever since."
A large police presence, including officers with drawn weapons and armored vehicles, has been reported in Forest, the area of Belgium where the raid took place. And it seems that the authorities may have been surprised to find the suspects at the apartment, which had been rented under a fake name and was thought to be empty, according to Belgian news outlet RTBF.
The search that made up the initial operation wasn't reinforced, RTBF says, citing federal prosecutors.
Investigators hadn't committed substantial resources to the visit and weren't necessarily expecting to find people in the targeted apartment, the agency adds. But when police arrived at the door, they were met with gunfire.
With the police operation ongoing, several roads and transit outlets were closed in the area, as law enforcement set up a security perimeter meant to keep the suspects from slipping away.
Belgian authorities also urged the public and the media not to spread photos or video from the scene — one official even called out the BBC on Twitter, asking, "why post video or pics of what's happening...? C'mon! Don't jeopardize the operation."
As has happened when the police made similar requests during earlier anti-terror lockdowns in Belgium, many of the nation's Twitter users started posting photos of cats, using the hashtags #Forest and #Brusselslockdown.