At least two people are dead and one wounded after a counter-terrorism raid in Verviers, in eastern Belgium. It’s obviously far too early to say whether this was a separate cell or somehow related to the Charle Hebdo attack and its related hostage incidents (or whether it was anything at all, innocent until proven guilty and all). A Belgian arms dealer has turned himself in and confessed to selling weapons to Coulibaly, so the idea that this Belgian activity is related to the CH attacks isn’t totally without merit. So far what’s being reported is that the targets of the raid had returned from fighting in Syria and have ties with ISIS, which suggests to me that they were not directly linked to the Paris attacks (neither the Kouachis nor Coulibaly had any ties to the Syrian war, though Coulibaly did pledge allegiance to ISIS). Of all Western European countries, Belgium has seen the largest number of its citizens (per capita) travel to Syria to participate in the fighting, and has already experienced the threat posed by returning fighters via last May’s attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Meanwhile, in Paris, authorities are looking for a fourth male suspect in last week’s attacks, after raiding Coulibaly’s weapons cache and finding keys to a vehicle that Coulibaly didn’t own. There may be as many as six members of Coulibaly’s group who are still at large, and there may be a connection to Madrid, as Coulibaly and Hayat Boumediene (who appears to have left France before the attacks and is now believed to be in Syria) apparently spent a few days there around New Year’s Day.
Meanwhile, here in the good old U.S. of A., the FBI has arrested 20 year old Christopher Lee Cornell of Ohio, aka “Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah,” for plotting a pipe bomb and firearm attack on the U.S. Capitol. The decision to arrest Cornell seems to have been heavily based on the reports of an FBI informant, which raises the possibility that Cornell was entrapped. I wouldn’t go there, except that the FBI has been amassing a track record of finding jihadi sympathizers, inciting them (via an undercover agent or an informant) to take action, then arresting them for it. That’s pretty much the definition of “entrapment,” and it immediately calls any high-profile FBI counter-terror arrest into question.