Belgium releases Paris attacks suspects without charge

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
BRUSSELS
Published 13.04.2016 20:20
Updated 13.04.2016 20:54
Belgian police are seen during a search in Anderlecht district in Brussels after 3 men were arrested this afternoon, in Brussels, Belgium, 08 April 2016. (EPA Photo)
Belgian police are seen during a search in Anderlecht district in Brussels after 3 men were arrested this afternoon, in Brussels, Belgium, 08 April 2016. (EPA Photo)

Three people arrested in Brussels in connection with the November Paris attacks have been released without charge, Belgian prosecutors said on Wednesday.

"Within the case opened in the wake of the Paris attacks of November 13th 2015, the three persons that were arrested for questioning yesterday... have been released by the investigating judge," said Eric Van der Sypt, a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecutors.

"They have not been charged," he added.

On Tuesday, Belgian police arrested the three people in the Brussels district of Uccle during a raid linked to the investigation into the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Investigators have uncovered extensive links between the Paris and Brussels attacks, with many of the same people involved and linked to Daesh in Syria which claimed both.

At the weekend, a Belgian prosecutor said the Brussels cell had originally planned another attack in France but that the arrest of Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels on March 18, coupled with a series of massive police raids, made them decide to target Belgium instead.

Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up during the assault on the French capital, had been due to do the same but backed out at the last moment, fleeing to Brussels where he hid until police caught him on March 18, not far from his family home in Molenbeek district.

Apparently reflecting their fears that the net was closing in on them, one of the Brussels airport bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, left behind what the authorities described as a "will" on a computer in which he said he felt "hunted".

The other airport bomber was Najim Laachraoui, whose DNA was found on a suicide vest recovered at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, where 90 people died.

The Belgian authorities gave no details of the planned attack in France.

On Friday, police netted another key suspect: Mohamed Abrini, 31, the so-called "man in the hat" seen in CCTV footage at Brussels airport with two other bombers shortly before the attack.

Abrini grew up with Abdeslam in Molenbeek along with several other suspects, who all share a similar story of getting on the wrong side of the law and then becoming radicalised.

Critics say the authorities have not done enough to prevent extremism in areas such as Molenbeek, with Belgium proportionately the biggest source of foreign fighters travelling to Syria to join Daesh.

A separate wave of attacks in Brussels on March 22 left 32 people dead and hundreds wounded.


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