Friday 20 April 2018

Moroccan police arrest man linked to Paris attacks

People gather at the scene at the Bataclan attack in Paris before Christmas.
People gather at the scene at the Bataclan attack in Paris before Christmas.

Samia Errazzouki in Rabat

Moroccan police have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent linked to Isil and who had a "direct relationship" to terrorists who carried out the Paris attacks just over two months ago, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

The man had travelled to Syria with one of the Paris suicide bombers, where he received military training and built relationships with Isil field commanders, "including the mastermind" of the Paris attacks, and others who threatened attacks in France and Belgium, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement identified the suspect only by the initials JA, and didn't explain his suspected relationship to the Paris attackers. Several of the Islamic extremists who targeted a Paris rock concert, stadium and cafes had Moroccan origins and links to Belgium.

The ministry said the man was arrested last Friday in the town of Mohammedia, near Casablanca, after travelling through Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Morocco has emerged as a key ally for European investigators trying to piece together the geography of the November 13 attacks.

The head of Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, dubbed the 'Moroccan FBI', said his country put French and Belgian police on the trail of the network behind the Paris attacks.

The statement said the man, arrested in Mohammedia, had travelled to Syria "with one of the suicide bombers of Saint-Denis".

French police raided a flat in the Saint-Denis district of Paris five days after the attacks, searching for the suspected ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national. He and his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen died in a fierce gun battle during the raid.

A third person who died during the raid, detonating a suicide bomb, was named by the Paris prosecutor's office last week as Chakib Akrouh, a Belgian-Moroccan national, born in Belgium in 1990. He was identified using DNA from his mother.

Both Akrouh and Abaaoud had spent time in Syria.

The Moroccan statement said the arrested man had "built solid ties with Isil leaders, including the ringleader of the Paris attacks".

He would stand trial once investigations finish, it added.

The focus of the international manhunt remains Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of taking part in the attacks and is still on the run. Several of the attackers lived in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, home to numerous Belgians of Moroccan descent.

Irish Independent

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