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Brussels Reopens For Business Even As Authorities Extend Security Alert


Life in Brussels started returning to normal today. The Belgian government ordered a shutdown four days ago after warnings of an imminent terrorist attack. Authorities feared that suspects linked to killings in Paris could strike again. Schools, some universities and the subway have now reopened, but the city is still on high alert, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.


OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Parents hug and kiss their children as they drop them off at a school in Brussels this morning. Additional police officers have been drafted in to protect schools which have been closed since Friday because of the security alert.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Parents hurry away without giving their names or responding to journalist questions about whether they're worried about their kids and a possible Paris-style attack in Brussels.

LISA STEININGER: We are not afraid because in the center is the military everywhere. But some people are really staying home.

QUIST-ARCTON: That's 27-year-old Lisa Steininger, an Austrian studying to be a nursery teacher. She's lived in Brussels for the past two years.

STEININGER: It's always possible to make an attack in Germany or in Austria because here, you see the police, the military. They're prepared for an attack.

QUIST-ARCTON: Four days of security restrictions paralyzed the economy of Brussels, a global city and headquarters of the European Union. Businesses have reopened timidly, says part-time worker and university student Alexia van der Straton. She's cleaning up before closing a very quiet sandwich, snack and fruit shop in Brussels City Centre.

ALEXIA VAN DER STRATON: Not as many people as usual - but yeah, no one but quiet.

QUIST-ARCTON: And then she switches to French.

VAN DER STRATON: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: She says closing schools, the metro and shops was exactly what Islamic State wanted and that it wasn't such a brilliant idea. Brussels is at the heart of investigations linked to the Paris killings. Two of the suicide bombers were raised here, and two alleged suspects are believed to be at large in Brussels. Belgium plans to review next week the terror threat and maximum security alert which has been extended, for now, until Monday. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.