Sunday 18 August 2019

Police seek second suspect who accompanied Paris mastermind

A Belgian police patrols in central Brussels as a civilian walks past. Photo: Reuters
A Belgian police patrols in central Brussels as a civilian walks past. Photo: Reuters

Henry Samuel in Paris

FRENCH police now believe that a second suspect involved in the Paris attacks may also be on the run.

Investigators in France are seeking to identify an individual filmed by CCTV inside the Paris metro alongside Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind killed in the Saint-Denis siege.

The man "of North African origin" can be seen walking a few paces behind Abaaoud, who took line 9 at Croix-de-Chavaux after leaving a Seat Leon nearby with three Kalashnikovs inside. Abaaoud got out at Nation. "He is clearly filmed in the train leaving the platform at Nation. At this point, he was only a few dozen metres from the Comptoire Voltaire [where Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up]," a source close to the inquiry told 'Le Parisien'. "What we know for sure is that (Abaaoud)wasn't alone in the metro," he is cited as saying.

"Analysis is under way to work out whether the other man was the same person who blew himself up in Saint-Denis on Wednesday morning," the source said.

"If it is not him, then we have a second terrorist, along with Salah Abdeslam, at large."

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Brussels has accused the Belgian government of imposing an "Islamic regime" on the city after the terrorism lockdown saw bars, restaurants and schools shut.

In a mounting backlash against the shutdown which has closed museums, shut shops and driven away tourists, Mr Mayeur told Belgian broadcaster RTBF it was a "general catastrophe".

He added: "We can not continue to live in these conditions. We will not live under the Islamic regime."

"If we close schools, if we banned culture and shopping, if we do not allow people to live, to have fun, to relax, to go for a drink, under what sort of regime do we live?"

He condemned a call from Joelle Milquet, the education minister, to build "safe rooms" in schools to protect against gun attacks, saying they need to "remain reasonable".

Last night, sources in Munich claimed that German police were also hunting for Salah Abdeslam in Minden and Lübbecke in the North Rhine-Westphalia region that borders Belgium. Earlier yesterday a judge in Brussels issued an arrest warrant for Mohamed Abrini (30), who was seen driving a car with fugitive Salah Abdeslam two days before the Paris attacks.

Authorities also charged an unidentified person with participating in terrorist activities, bringing the total of people arrested under the Belgian investigation to five, according to the prosecutor's office.

Abrini was seen on Novemver 11 in a gas station in Ressons, France, with Abdeslam, who is believed to have been involved in the assault. Authorities stepped up their manhunt as the Belgian government has extended the highest-level terror alert for Brussels into the next week over concern an assault is imminent.

Irish Independent

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