brussels airport reopen.jpg
Photograph: EPA/LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/POOL

The Brussels international airport, where suicide bombers launched a deadly attack in March, had been a target in early 2015 already, a Belgian court found Tuesday, as it wrapped up a trial against a terrorist cell foiled more than 18 months ago.

Sixteen people are suspected of being involved in the cell, which had planned to carry out attacks against police officers.

The plot was foiled in January 2015 thanks to a series of counterterrorism raids. Two suspects died in one of the Belgium raids, in the eastern city of Verviers, after they opened fire on police.

The group had also identified the Brussels airport as a potential target, the judge said Tuesday, citing plans by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national who is suspected of having gone on to mastermind last November's terrorist attacks in Paris.

Abaaoud was later killed in a police raid in France.

The court based its findings on diagrams found in Athens, where Abaaoud had spent time in late 2014. They show individuals pushing a baggage trolly with the word "bomb" written on the sketch.

On March 22, more than 30 people were killed in attacks on the Brussels airport and an underground station in the Belgian capital.

The judge paused his reading of the verdict at the end of the morning but was due to resume later Tuesday. Nine of the 16 accused are being tried in absentia - they are on the run and believed to be in Syria.

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