BRUSSELS, Belgium – The Belgian authorities have charged a 9th person in connection with last month’s deadly Paris attacks, the prosecutor’s office said Thursday, December 24.
A spokesman said the suspect had telephoned Hasna Aitboulachen, the cousin of ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, several times after the November 13 attacks and before a police raid 5 days later in which they both died.
A statement identified the man as Abdoullah C., a Belgian national born in 1985, who was arrested on Tuesday, December 22, on charges of “terrorist murders and participation in the activities of a terrorist organization.”
The attacks, claimed by the Islamic State jihadi group, and the Belgian links to them have shocked the country and sparked a sharp increase in visible security.
Armed police and soldiers now patrol the streets in Brussels, Europe’s diplomatic hub and home to the European Union, NATO and a host of major companies.
The Paris onslaught stoked fears the city was fertile ground for Islamist extremists, who have in some cases gone to fight in Syria and returned home battle-hardened and even more determined.
The police are especially looking for Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, who is believed to have played a key role in the attacks on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the French national stadium which left 130 dead.
Friends drove him from Paris back to the Belgian capital, slipping through three police checks, with the authorities bemoaning a lack of intelligence sharing and closer cooperation for missing Europe’s most wanted man.
The attacks and the apparent ease with which some of those involved travelled around the EU beforehand has also raised questions.
In early December, Belgian prosecutors said they were looking for two “armed and dangerous” men who used false ID papers to help Abdeslam travel to Hungary in September where he was stopped — but then let go — by police.
The fake identity card of one of the suspects was also used to wire money from Brussels to Paris and Hasna Aitboulachen four days before the attacks.
Several people have since been charged with helping Abdeslam on his return to Brussels where he lived in the gritty Moelenbeek district, along with several others implicated in the attacks and Islamist groups.
Earlier this week, the police arrested another 5 people in a series of raids in and around Brussels but a judge later ordered their release without charge. – Rappler.com