Monday 5 December 2016

Belgium holds four people on terrorism charges

Robert-Jan Bartunek

Published 09/04/2016 | 17:08

Police secure an area during a house search in the Etterbeek neighborhood in Brussels (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Police secure an area during a house search in the Etterbeek neighborhood in Brussels (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgium police officers search the area during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Belgium's public prosecutor on Saturday charged four people with being part of a terrorist organisation, including a man suspected of helping prepare the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

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They added it was still not clear whether the man, Belgian Mohamed Abrini, was also suspected of being involved in last month's Brussels airport bombings.

"He is charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murder," the Belgian federal prosecutors office said in a statement.

Prosecutors added it was still not clear whether Abrini was the "man in a hat" seen on CCTV footage with two of the suicide bombers at Brussels Airport on March 22.

Belgium police officers search the area during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgium police officers search the area during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Apart from Abrini, prosecutors said they also charged Osama K, who local media said was a Swede named Osama Krayem, adding they were able to identify him as the man present at the time of the attack on the Brussels metro station that same day.

Prosecutors also continued to hold a Rwandan national, identified as Herve B.M., and 27-year-old Bilal E.M., while two other people detained on Friday together with Abrini were released after being questioned.

Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Earlier on Saturday, Belgian police raided an apartment complex in central Brussels without further arrests being made. Prosecutors had suspected an apartment there to be used as a safe house though no explosives or weapons were found.

The sixth person arrested late on Friday was Bilal El Makhoukhi, who was convicted in January last year for being involved in Sharia4Belgium, a now disbanded organisation which recruited people to go and fight alongside jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq.

Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeek, near Brussels, Belgium, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Originally sentenced to five years in prison, with three years suspended, El Makhoukhi was allowed to serve his remaining term at home under electronic monitoring and was released last month, Justice Minister Koen Geens told reporters.

"He was under electronic supervision and his sentence ended on March 15," Geens said on the sidelines of a government news conference.

El Makhoukhi was convicted last year after he had returned to Belgium after losing a leg while fighting in Syria.

Reuters

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