Saturday 21 September 2019

Belgium charges suspect with Paris terror offences

Investigating police officers enter the building of Wednesday's raid in Paris (AP)
Investigating police officers enter the building of Wednesday's raid in Paris (AP)

Belgium has filed terror charges against a third suspect relating to the Paris attacks.

In a statement tonight, the prosecutor's office said "the person that was arrested yesterday has been charged by the investigating judge with participation in terrorist attacks and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation, and placed into custody."

Two other suspects are already behind bars facing similar charges.

The charges came after France's Senate voted to extend a state of emergency for three months after last Friday's deadly attacks.

The state of emergency expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places. France's lower chamber has already approved the measure.

The vote in the Senate took place exactly one week after extremists attacked a concert hall, the stadium and several cafes and restaurants in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Earlier authorities revealed a third body has been found in an apartment raided by police searching for suspects in connection with the terror attacks in Paris.

The prosecutors' office said in a statement that the body found in a flat in Saint-Denis is that of a woman but her identity is unclear.

Authorities have identified one of the three killed in Wednesday's raid in Saint-Denis as the suspected mastermind of the massacres on Friday, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Prime minister Manuel Valls said later that one more person had died as the result of the attacks in Paris, raising the total to 130.

The count does not include any of the attackers who died.

The body of Belgian extremist Abaaoud, 27, was found in the building targeted on Wednesday and was identified based on skin samples, the prosecutor's office said.

Abaaoud ended up near Paris after reportedly being in Syria but officials have not said how he managed to travel across so many borders to the French capital.

Authorities have not detailed his exact whereabouts or actions during the deadly rampage..

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France did not know before last week's deadly attacks that Abaaoud was in Europe, but said he was believed to be behind four of six attacks thwarted since spring by French authorities.

Police have said another woman who died in the police raid in Saint-Denis was Abaaoud's cousin.

Hasna Aitboulahcen is believed to have detonated a suicide vest in the building after a brief conversation with police officers.

A French security official said Abaaoud was seen on a surveillance camera in the subway at around the time of the shootings and suicide bombings on Friday.

The official said Abaaoud was at the Croix de Chavaux metro station in the suburb of Montreuil at 10.14pm on November 13.

Teams of attackers started the violence at 9.20pm at the Stade de France north of Paris, then started firing on Paris cafes a few minutes later.

The metro station where Abaaoud was seen is not far from where police later found a Seat car believed to have been used by the attackers.

French authorities said police had conducted 793 raids since last week's attacks.

On Thursday night alone, officers carried out 182 raids, detaining 17 people and seizing 76 weapons plus drugs.

After five nights of raids, the interior ministry said police had detained 90 people and seized 174 weapons, including 18 military-style firearms, 84 rifles and 68 handguns.

In addition, 164 people have been placed under house arrest with new powers permitted under France's state of emergency. Police also seized 250,000 euros.

The Paris prosecutor's office later said Aitboulahcen did not blow herself up as police had previously thought.

Police officials said Aitboulahcen was killed in the Saint-Denis raid but was not a suicide bomber.

Parisians turned out in their thousands tonight to pay tribute to those killed in last week's attacks.

Some lit candles and sang. Some danced in the street. Others held hands in silent contemplation at the Place de la Republique, which has become a central commemoration site for the victims.

The scene was repeated at the cafes and the concert hall where most of the 130 people who died lost their lives.

PA Media

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