Tuesday 25 October 2016

Belgian police find 'suicide belts' at 'bomb factory' for Paris attacks

Matthew Holehouse

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

Armed police stand guard yesterday in front of the station where a man was killed Thursday after he showed up wearing fake explosives, in Paris. Photo: AP
Armed police stand guard yesterday in front of the station where a man was killed Thursday after he showed up wearing fake explosives, in Paris. Photo: AP
Salah Abdeslam. Photo: PA

A possible bomb factory where the Paris terrorist atrocity, was prepared has been discovered, Belgian prosecutors said today.

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Three belts for use in suicide attacks, traces of explosives and a fingerprint of wanted suspect Salah Abdeslam were found in a Brussels flat.

They said Abdeslam, who has been on the run since the November 13 attacks, may have hidden there. But they were also investigating the theory that the flat was used to prepare the explosive suicide belts.

The discovery was made in December during a search of an apartment in the Schaerbeek area of the Belgian capital. It was rented by someone using a false name, possibly used by another suspect now in custody, they said.

"In the framework of the investigation opened after the Paris attacks, the federal prosecutor confirms that during a house search conducted on December 10 in an apartment on the third floor, Rue Bergi in Schaerbeek, material that can be used to fabricate explosives as well as traces of TATP were found," the prosecutor's office said.

"This apartment was rented under a false identity that might have been used by a person already in custody in this case," the statement added.

"Three handmade belts that might be used to transport explosives as well as a fingerprint of Salah Abdeslam were also discovered."

Police have been hunting for Belgian-born Abdeslam (26), since suicide bombers and gunmen firing automatic weapons killed 130 people and wounded many more in a wave of attacks across Paris on a Friday evening.

Investigators said friends drove Abdeslam from Paris back to the Belgian capital, slipping through three police checks, while one suspect has since said that he drove Abdeslam across Brussels to Schaerbeek on November 14.

Eric Van Der Sypt, federal prosecutors spokesman, said that it was not clear when Abdeslam visited the Brussels apartment.

"Maybe he went there to get his belt (before the attacks), and maybe he went back afterwards. I suppose it's a possibility of both," he added.

He said it was likely the flat was a bomb factory.

"We found material to make explosives, we found traces of explosives and we found three belts. So you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to make the right deduction."

He would not comment on Belgian media reports that the flat had been cleaned and checked for fingerprints after the attacks, which would explain why only one of Abdeslam's prints was found.

After the attacks, French authorities said that telephone data had placed Abdeslam in the area where an explosives belt was found in a dustbin in the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

Isil claimed responsibility for the coordinated series of attacks on bars, restaurants, and a concert hall, in which the attackers were armed with guns and suicide belts. Seven died during the assault but the total number of those directly involved is still unclear.

One of them was Abdeslam's brother, Brahim.

In early December, Belgian prosecutors said they were looking for two "armed and dangerous" men who used false ID papers to help Abdeslam travel to Hungary in September where he was stopped - but then let go - by police.

Belgian authorities have arrested and charged a total of 10 people in connection with the attacks, including several with helping Abdeslam.

France has long said the attacks were prepared and organised in Belgium and that the mastermind was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Brussels resident who was killed in a police raid in Paris days after the massacre.

Paris was again jolted on Thursday when a man wearing a fake explosives vest and wielding a butcher's knife ran up to a police station and was shot dead by officers standing guard.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said investigators are still unsure of the man's true identity.

Irish Independent

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