Four charged with terrorist murders in Paris, Brussels attack inquiry

Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini has been charged in Belgium with terrorist murders and participation in the activities of a terrorist group, along with three others, the federal prosecution said Saturday.

Abrini and five other men were arrested in Brussels on Friday in the framework of investigations into suicide attacks in Brussels last month that left 32 people dead. He had long been sought in relation to separate attacks in Paris last November in which 130 people died.

Two people arrested with Abrini on Friday were released after thorough interrogation, the prosecution said in a statement.

Following Abrini's arrest, Belgian media reported that he was "more than likely" to also be a fugitive attacker who had left behind a bomb during suicide attacks on Brussels airport last month.

But it is "not possible yet to confirm" that Abrini is the fugitive suspect, known as the "man with the hat" based on video surveillance of him, the prosecutors said.

However, they did confirm that Osama K, another man arrested Friday, was the second person present at last month's suicide bombing in a Brussels underground carriage. Media had previously reported about a second metro attacker, but officials had not confirmed it.

Osama K had also been filmed at a shopping mall in central Brussels buying bags used in the airport attack, the prosecution statement said.

Two other men arrested on Friday - identified by the prosecution as Herve B M, a Rwandan national, and Bilal E M - were also charged with terrorist murders and participation in a terrorist group.

They are both suspected of offering assistance to Abrini and Osama K, the prosecution wrote.

Belgian media had reported earlier Saturday about the arrest of a sixth man, naming him as Bilal El Makhoukhi, a suspect condemned last year in a mass trial against members of the terrorist group Sharia4Belgium.

El Makhoukhi had been sentenced to five years in prison but was released early, the Belgian broadcaster VRT and De Standaard newspaper reported.

The prosecution further said that a raid was carried out Saturday on an apartment in the Brussels neighbourhood of Etterbeck that was "possibly used as a safe house by the terrorist group," in addition to searches on Friday in the homes of Abrini, Herve B M and Bilal E M.

No weapons or explosives were found on any of these premises.

Meanwhile, the Belgian government agreed early Saturday to increase its spending on security as well as supporting economic sectors hit by last month's terrorist attacks on Brussels, as it finalized its budget plans, the Belga news agency reported.

Last update: Sat, 09/04/2016 - 18:41
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