Tuesday 12 December 2017

Secret agents swoop on four people 'to foil terror attack' in Paris

A Belgian police officer leaves the house where the firefight took place on Tuesday in the Brussels suburb of Forest. A 35-year-old Algerian man was killed in the shootout. Photo: Getty
A Belgian police officer leaves the house where the firefight took place on Tuesday in the Brussels suburb of Forest. A 35-year-old Algerian man was killed in the shootout. Photo: Getty

Henry Samuel

Paris and Brussels were at the heart of European anti-terrorism operations yesterday as secret agents swooped on four people thought to be planning an attack on the French capital, while Belgium named an Algerian killed in a shoot-out on Tuesday.

In the Paris raid, three men and a woman were arrested in the 18th arrondissement, home to Montmartre, and the northeastern suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.

No weapons were found but electronic equipment was being analysed, French media reported.

While police do not believe an attack was "imminent", they believe a plot was under way.

One of the suspects, a 28-year-old Frenchman, was on a security watch list after trying to travel to Syria in 2014.

He had been under house arrest since November 13, when Paris suffered its worst terrorist attack, with 130 people killed by Isil gunmen at a concert hall and bars and restaurants.

The suspect's wife was also among those arrested.

Many of the Paris killers were based in the Belgian capital, the scene of a shoot-out between police and terrorist suspects on Tuesday.

Six French and Belgian officers came under fire while searching a flat in the quiet southern suburb of Forest as part of an investigation into the Paris attacks.

In ensuing clashes, a police sniper shot dead an Algerian illegal immigrant named yesterday as Mohamed Belkaid.

An Isil flag, a book on Salafism and a Kalashnikov were by his side.

Police also found 11 loaders for Kalashnikovs and "innumerable shell casings".

Registered as having committed a petty theft in 2014, Belkaid was unknown to French and Belgian intelligence.

Two suspects, thought to be armed, are still at large.

According to 'Derniere Heure', the two suspects are thought to be Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, respectively 26 and 30 and known for gangster-related crimes.

The name of one has cropped up in anti-terrorism investigations, according to 'Le Monde'.

Sources close to the inquiry told the French daily that the flat where the gunfight erupted was rented by Mohamed Bakkali.

He hit the headlines a few weeks ago when police found footage at his wife's home suggesting he had been trailing a high-ranking Belgian nuclear physicist, raising fears of a plot to commit a radioactive attack.

Investigators also detained a man admitted to hospital near Brussels with a broken leg that required surgery.

The person who brought him to hospital fled as local police arrived.

Another suspect was detained for questioning after a further house search near the scene of the shooting. Both were released without charge later yesterday.

Prime Minister Charles Michel summoned security and intelligence chiefs for an emergency sitting of Belgium's national security council yesterday to review the country's level of alertness and possible extra measures.

"The threat remains," Mr Michel said, adding that for now Belgium would be on the second -highest alert level of three.

Belgian security forces have been actively hunting suspects and associates of the militants involved in the Paris attacks.

One of the prime suspects, 26-year-old Brussels-based Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run. He left Paris hours after his brother blew himself up outside a café. Belgian authorities are holding 10 people who have been arrested in the months since the attacks, mostly for helping Abdeslam.

Belgium, with a Muslim population of about 5pc among its 11 million people, has the highest rate in Europe of citizens joining militants in Syria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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