Thursday 23 November 2017

Brussels attacks come just four days after capture of Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam

It is believed Brussels explosions could be in retaliation for the arrest of Abdeslam

Najim Laachraoui's (inset) DNA was found on several explosive belts used in the attacks
Najim Laachraoui's (inset) DNA was found on several explosive belts used in the attacks
Captured: Isil terror attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. Photo: PA
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The series of attacks in Brussels this morning comes just four days after Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks, was captured at a house.

Abdeslam, suspected as a logistician in the attacks that killed 130 people, was arrested on Friday after a four-month manhunt in the same neighbourhood in Brussels where he grew up.

It is believed the two explosions at Brussels Zaventem airport and the explosion at a Metro station near the neighbourhood of Maelbeek area of Brussels could be in retaliation for the capture and arrest of Abdeslam.

Authorities say they do not know the "exact path" taken by Salah Abdeslam since the attacks in Paris on November 13 and they are not sure of who he has been in contact with.

Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told reporters at a news conference in Brussels that investigators hope to find out the details of Abdeslam's actions between the November 13 attacks and his arrest, "if he decides to tell us".

Abdeslam, 26, a French citizen who grew up in Brussels' Molenbeek neighbourhood, slipped through police fingers on multiple occasions, including the day after the attacks. He was interviewed three times on Saturday, the day after his capture - once by prosecutors and twice by an investigating judge - and "wasn't in great shape" because he had been shot in the leg by police during his capture, Mr Van Leeuw said.

Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of Brussels Airport, where two explosions have been heard and smoke seen rising from one of the terminal buildings.
Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of Brussels Airport, where two explosions have been heard and smoke seen rising from one of the terminal buildings.

He was also described as being "worth his weight in gold".

Belgian prosecutors also appealed to the public Monday for information about a man who allegedly travelled to Hungary last year with the top suspect in the Paris attacks.

The federal prosecutor's office said in a statement they are seeking details about 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, who is said to have travelled to Syria in February 2013.

It said Laachraoui was checked by guards at the Austria-Hungary border while driving in a Mercedes with Abdeslam and one other person.

Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Belgian emergency vehicles arrive at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station, killing at least 21 people, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY MONASSETHIERRY MONASSE/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers wait, on March 22, 2016 near Brussels airport in Zaventem , following its evacuation after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Flags being put at half mast outside European Commission Credit: Twitter
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers board a bus as they evacuate the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station, killing at least 21 people, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY MONASSETHIERRY MONASSE/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers are evacuated from Brussels airport, on March 22, 2016 in Zaventem, after at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured as twin blasts rocked the main terminal of Brussels airport.AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers evacuate the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station, killing at least 21 people, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY MONASSETHIERRY MONASSE/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters arrive at a security perimeter set near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers evacuate the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station, killing at least 21 people, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY MONASSETHIERRY MONASSE/AFP/Getty Images
A police officers sets a security perimeter near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
A police officers sets a security perimeter near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
People are evacuated from Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016 after two explosions in a hall of the airport. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / DIRK WAEM / Belgium OUTDIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images
An armed policeman secures the access to the terminal area of the Frankfurt Airport, on March 22, 2016, in Frankfurt, western Germany. AFP PHOTO / DPA / Boris Roessler / Germany OUTBORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images

Laachraoui is said to have rented a house under the name of Soufiane Kayal in the Belgian town of Auvelais that was allegedly used as a safe house. Prosecutors said traces of his DNA were found there.

Laachraoui is "someone who must explain himself," the prosecutor said, stressing that "clues" do not amount to proof.

Belgian soldiers patrol in a subway station in Brussels, Belgium, in this November 25, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Files
Belgian soldiers patrol in a subway station in Brussels, Belgium, in this November 25, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Files

Investigators have been working on numerous pieces of the puzzle in the many-tentacled Paris attacks case and are now faced with the fact that there may have been a retaliation attack in Belgium this morning.

"We are far from putting the puzzle together," said Mr Van Leeuw.

Picture taken with permission from the Facebook site of Jef Versele showing the aftermath of this morning's explosions at Brussels airport
Picture taken with permission from the Facebook site of Jef Versele showing the aftermath of this morning's explosions at Brussels airport

Anti-terrorism prosecutors in Belgium and France have worked non-stop on hundreds of cases - 325 cases last year in Belgium and near 60 new cases so far this year, Mr Van Leeuw said.

His French counterpart, Francois Molins, who was also at the news conference, said his team has 244 anti-terror cases in progress concerning 772 individuals either charged or sought.

Picture taken with permission from the Facebook site of Jef Versele showing the aftermath of this morning's explosions at Brussels airport
Picture taken with permission from the Facebook site of Jef Versele showing the aftermath of this morning's explosions at Brussels airport

"(It's clear) we have a general threat," Mr Van Leeuw said.

Abdeslam has a court hearing tomorrow. France has requested his extradition but Abdeslam's lawyer says his client will fight the request.

Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @davidcrunelle of the scene at Brussels Airport after two explosions were heard
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @davidcrunelle of the scene at Brussels Airport after two explosions were heard

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