Man who lodged suspected Paris attackers goes before judge, German police without success in finding Salah Abdeslam

The man who provided lodging for the presumed mastermind of the Paris attacks will go before an anti-terrorism judge on Tuesday as the hunt for suspected gang member Salah Abdeslam, Europe's most wanted fugitive, entered its 11th day.

Frenchman Jawad Bendaoud said before he was detained by police last Wednesday that he had been asked to put up two people for three days in an apartment in St. Denis north of Paris, but he had no idea one of them was the attackers' ringleader.

It was in this flat that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected leader of the attacks claimed by Islamic State, died during a police raid along with Hasna Aitboulahcen, a woman believed to be his cousin, and an as yet unidentified third person.

Under French counter-terrorism laws, Bendaoud must be charged or released on Tuesday. The Paris Prosecutor is due to hold a news conference at 6.30 p.m. (1730 GMT), though the prosecutor's office has said Bendaoud will go before a judge.

The Paris attacks that killed 130 people on Friday, Nov. 13, at the national sports stadium, a concert venue and bars and restaurants in heart of the capital, shocked a city already struck by Islamist gunmen in January.

Since the killings, France has moved its flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier into the eastern Mediterranean to step up its bombardments of Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

President Francois Hollande is also trying to rally support this week for a more coordinated international campaign to destroy the militant group. He is due to meet President Barack Obama later on Tuesday and to visit Moscow on Thursday.

As millions of Americans prepare to travel for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a global alert of "increased terrorist threats".

The agency said on Monday current information suggested that Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other groups continued to plan attacks in multiple regions.

German police say no sign of Paris attack suspect after raid

German police launched an operation on Tuesday after getting a tip-off that Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam, at the centre of an international manhunt, was in northwestern Germany but said they have so far found no indication that he is there.

The police received a lead that Abdeslam might be at an address known to them in the area of Minden and Luebbecke in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks which killed at least 130 people, has been on the run since Nov. 13. As a French citizen, he can travel freely between countries in the European Union's Schengen area where there are no border controls.

Police in Bielefeld said they had been following up a lead from a witness who informed them that they saw someone resembling the suspect.

"After initial intensive investigations, there has so far been no indication to confirm the suspicion," the police said in a statement. "The deployment is continuing at the moment."

A spokesman also denied a newspaper report that they had made an arrest.

 

BRUSSELS LOCKDOWN

French investigators are still piecing together exactly who did what when and have launched a massive hunt to find Abdeslam, suspected of being the eighth attacker mentioned by Islamic State when it claimed responsibility for the killings.

Abdeslam, 26, fled to Belgium the day after the shootings and his presumed presence in Brussels was one of the factors behind a security lockdown that brought the city to a virtual standstill over the weekend.

Fearing an imminent Paris-style attack, Belgium has extended a maximum security alert in Brussels until next Monday but said the metro system and schools may open again on Wednesday.

Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the attacks since France said two of the suicide bombers in Paris had lived there. Four people, including two who travelled with Abdeslam back to Brussels, have been charged with terrorist offences in Belgium. Abdeslam's brother Brahim blew himself

While major shopping centres in Brussels remained closed on Tuesday, two Ikea furniture stores on the edge of town reopened, along with some of the larger supermarkets in the city.

The Magritte museum remained shut, however, and Brussels had yet to decide whether to open its Christmas market on Friday in the historic Grand Place, where workers have set up stalls with an armoured personnel carrier in the background.

"We are at the time of year when we are supposed to have a lot of people, and increase business. And there the problem with the attacks is people are scared and are afraid of leaving their homes," said Brussels toy shop worker Laeticia Shalaj.

Belgium's King Philippe phoned King Mohammed of Morocco on Monday to ask for help in tracking down the militants behind the attacks, Belgium's Interior Ministry said.

A French police source said last week that Morocco tipped off Paris that Abaaoud, one of Islamic State's most high-profile European recruits, was in France at the time of the attacks rather than in Syria as widely believed.

 

EXPLOSIVE BELT?

As authorities tried to establish Abdeslam's movements and whereabouts, a source said he travelled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time.

His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Paris attacks, the investigative source said.

Tracing Abdeslam's movements since the attacks has been a main focus of the investigations in Paris. A suspected explosive belt was found dumped near the capital on Monday, close to a location where his mobile phone was detected the night after the attacks, a source close to the investigation said.

The same phone was also detected after the attacks in the 18th district in the north of Paris, near an abandoned car he had rented, before being picked up in Chatillon in the south close to where the suspected belt was found.

It was still being established on Tuesday whether the belt was Abdeslam's. One theory was that Abdeslam had intended to blow himself up in the 18th district but had abandoned the plan, although it was not clear why.

Dozens of people have been arrested and hundreds of homes searched by police in the wake of the attacks, most of them as part of a broad sweep that is not specifically targeting people thought to have played a direct role in the attacks.

Police backed up by helicopters descended on a southwestern French village on Tuesday where Salafist preacher Olivier Corel, nicknamed the "White Emir" and suspected of mentoring young Jihadists, lives, a source close to the case said.

(Additional reporting by Julie Rimbert in Toulouse; Writing by David Clarke; editing by Giles Elgood

Last update: Sat, 12/11/2016 - 12:57

More from Europe

Italian voters reject Renzi's constitutional reforms, exit polls show

Italians have rejected reforms proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, exit polls from a referendum show.

Austria's Green candidate for president defeats far-right rival

Austrians opted for a pro-European president by electing Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday with 53....

Hero to zero? Italy's Renzi puts career on the line in referendum

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi risks becoming Europe's youngest political has-been if Sunday's constitutional...

Ten facts about Italy's constitutional referendum

Italians will vote Sunday on a constitutional referendum that could result in major institutional changes or trigger...

Austrian presidential candidates optimistic as country repeats vote

The far-right and Green contenders for the Austrian presidency were both optimistic on Sunday as citizens cast their...