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Several arrested in massive Brussels police operation

BRUSSELS - A government official says a series of police raids in central Brussels have ended, hours after the government decided to keep its terror alert at the highest possible level.

Belgian security officials said on early Monday that 16 people have been arrested, and an investigating judge will decide tomorrow if they will continue to be detained.

Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam was not among them. He is known to have crossed into Belgium the morning after the Nov. 13 attacks.

Terrror suspect manhunt focuses on Belgium

Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said that "no firemarms or explosives were discovered," in the 22 raids -- 16 in Brussels and the three in Charleroi in the country's south.

"The investigation continues," he said.

One of those detained was injured when a car he was in tried to ram police during an attempted getaway.

Some of the attackers in Paris are now known to have traveled to and lived in Brussels, sparking concerns about further attacks there.

The situation was tense Sunday night in the wider area around the Grand Place, with police out in force and several raids looking for suspects going on.

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Handout picture shows Belgian-born Abdeslam Salah seen on a call for witnesses notice released by the French Police Nationale information services on their twitter account November 15, 2015. REUTERS

At one point, on Sunday during the raids, security forces closed off streets and yelled at people to stay away.

During the raids, Belgian media vowed to stop reporting details of the operation as it was ongoing.

While it appeared the Belgian public had largely respected the requests, many had humorous responses on social media.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Sunday the government has decided to keep the terror alert at the highest level for a sustained "serious and imminent" threat against the capital.

Michel said that like the weekend, authorities fear a Paris-like attack, "even perhaps at several locations."

The prime minister said the threats appear to be directly against commercial centers, shops and public transportation.

He said schools and the subway system in Brussels would not open as the workweek begins on Monday. Officials have also encouraged the public to remain vigilant and avoid crowds or large public gatherings.

Earlier Sunday, the mayor of one of Brussels' many municipalities told Belgian media that the capital is still facing a grave threat because of the likelihood of there being terrorists connected to the Paris attacks there.

Schaerbeek Mayor Bernard Clerfayt said Sunday: "There are two terrorists in the Brussels region that could commit very dangerous acts."

Also announced on Sunday, the authority for the Paris public hospitals said a number of protective health outfits, similar to those worn by people dealing with the Ebola virus, have been missing from a locked room in one of the city's hospitals.

Following the incident in the Necker hospital, a formal complaint was filed on Thursday, the same day Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in the National Assembly "there may also be a risk of chemical and bacteriological weapons" used by attackers.

The public AP-HP authority said Sunday a "limited number" of suits were missing but wouldn't confirm media reports saying a dozen hermetic protective overalls, three dozen pairs of special boots resistant to chemical agents, gloves and anti-bacterial masks have disappeared.

The AP-HP said the missing clothing were stored with other materials in code-locked premises but that many staff had access to the room to pick up ordinary supplies. Since the incident was discovered on Wednesday, security has been reinforced at the room.