Friday, 03 December 2021 08:04 GMT

Belgium charges 3rd suspect with terrorism


(MENAFN- Arab Times) Belgium on Saturday charged a third suspect with terrorist activities over a foiled plot to attack France, federal prosecutors said. They named the suspect only as 35-year-old Y.A., but gave no further details. "He has been charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement, adding that the development was part of a joint investigation by France and Belgium.

Two others - Abderrahmane A. and Rabah M. - are also being held in Belgium over the same plot. The main plot suspect is Reda Kriket, who was arrested near Paris last week after police found an arsenal of weapons and explosives at his home. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said "no specific target" had been identified for the foiled attack but that the cache of weapons showed an imminent act of "extreme violence" had likely been prevented.

The Netherlands is also holding a French national in connection with the same plot and he is currently fighting his extradition to France. European authorities have been under pressure to step up efforts to crack down on cross-border jihadist networks after close links emerged between the attackers blamed for the November Paris attacks and those behind last week's suicide blasts at the airport and a metro station in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, decided not to blow himself up during the wave of killings in the French capital last year, his brother said on Friday. Mohamed Abdeslam said his brother "voluntarily chose not to blow himself up" along with the other Islamic State jihadists who killed 130 people in gun and suicide bomb attacks in November. "If I wanted, there would have been more victims," Salah Abdeslam told his brother from prison in northern Belgium, according to Belgian media chain BFMTV. "Luckily, I did not follow through." Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November attacks in Paris, was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after four months on the run as Europe's most wanted man.

He is believed to have acted as a logistics coordinator and told investigators he was meant to carry out a suicide bombing at the Stade de France stadium, but backed out. Four days after he was arrested, the Belgian capital was struck by IS bombings at the airport and a metro station carried out by jihadists with links to the Paris attacks cell.

The 26-year-old, who is about to be extradited to France, apparently told his brother he wants to cooperate with investigators, but denied any role in the Brussels bombings.

In other news, Brussels Airport said it will partially reopen on Sunday, 12 days after it was hit by Islamic State suicide blasts, as Belgian prosecutors charged a third suspect with terrorism over a foiled plot to attack France. The first three "symbolic flights" will begin departing from Sunday afternoon, Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist told reporters, adding that travellers will be subject to additional security checks as police had demanded.

"These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack," Feist said. Passengers will have to make use of a temporary check-in facility as the airport's departure hall was wrecked in the March 22 blasts that also struck a metro station in Brussels and killed 32 people.

The attacks came just four days after Belgium arrested the prime suspect in last November's Paris terror assaults and links have emerged between the attackers, exposing a web of cross-border jihadist networks. European authorities, under pressure to crack down on home-grown extremists, have carried out a number of raids and arrests since then, several of them linked to a foiled plot to attack France.

In the latest development in the case, Belgian prosecutors Saturday charged a third suspect with "participation in the activities of a terrorist group" over the plot. They man was named only as 35-yearold Y.A., who according to Belgian media was arrested in the centre of Brussels on Friday. The main plot suspect is Reda Kriket, who was arrested near Paris last week after police found an arsenal of weapons and explosives at his home. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said an imminent act of "extreme violence" had likely been prevented.


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