Belgium charges 2 suspects with aiding terror attacks
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Belgium charges 2 suspects with aiding terror attacks

Smail F. and Ibrahim F. thought to be linked to rental of hideout in Etterbeek area for Brussels bomber

Belgian police officers stand guard at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station. (AFP / Belga / DIRK WAEM / Belgium OUT)
Belgian police officers stand guard at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, on March 22, 2016, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station. (AFP / Belga / DIRK WAEM / Belgium OUT)

Belgian prosecutors charged Tuesday two suspects in connection with the Brussels terror attacks that left 32 people dead last month.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office said that the suspects, identified only as Smail F. and Ibrahim F., were involved in renting an apartment in the Etterbeek area of Brussels that served as a hideout for the bomber who attacked the Brussels metro station as well as a suspected accomplice.

An investigating magistrate on Monday ordered Smail F., born in 1984, and Ibrahim F., born in 1988, held on charges of participating in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder as perpetrators, co-perpetrators or accomplices, the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

Officials say 16 people were killed in the March 22 subway blast and another sixteen at a bombing in the city’s airport hours earlier.

The statement said no further information would be released, and that the investigation “is continuing actively day and night.”

Prosecutors believe the main suspects in the Brussels attacks and the attacks in Paris in November, which left 130 people dead, are now either locked up or dead.

On Friday, Belgian authorities said that they had nabbed five men, including Mohamed Abrini, the last identified suspect at large from the Paris attacks and the “man in the hat” caught on CCTV at Brussels airport with the two men who blew themselves up there. Abrini was charged Saturday with “terrorist murders.”

Also arrested Friday was Osama Krayem, a Swedish national from a Palestinian family who has been charged with terrorist murder over his role in the Brussels metro station bombing, a Rwandan national called Herve B.M. and Bilal El Makhoukhi, who lost a leg while fighting in Syria.

Krayem, identified by prosecutors as Osama K., was fingered as the man who appeared with the suicide bomber at the Malbeek subway station and the one who bought bags used to conceal the bombs set off by two suicide attackers at the airport on March 22, the statement said.

Herve B.M., 25, is “suspected of having offered assistance to Mohamed Abrini as well as Osama K.,” a statement said.

He is charged with participating in the activities of terrorist group and “complicity in terrorist murders,” it said.

Bilal E.M., as called by prosecutors, was charged with participating in “the activities of a terrorist group and complicity in terrorist murders” over suspicions he helped Abrini and Krayem

People gather to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings a day earlier, on the Place de la Bourse in central Brussels, March 23, 2016 (AFP/Patrik Stollarz)
People gather to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings a day earlier, on the Place de la Bourse in central Brussels, March 23, 2016 (AFP/Patrik Stollarz)

The arrest of Abrini, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, and Krayem highlighted a web of connections between those involved in the Paris and Brussels bombings and shootings.

Several of the suspects came from the largely immigrant Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have played a key role in Paris, who died during a police raid in November, and Salah Abdeslam, the main surviving Paris suspect, who was arrested on March 18 not far from his family’s home.

Abdeslam’s brother Brahim blew himself up in Paris but for unknown reasons, Salah did not follow suit, fleeing back to Brussels immediately afterwards and eluding police for four months despite a massive manhunt.

Two days before the Paris attacks, Abrini was caught on camera at a gas station with Salah Abdeslam.

This file video image taken from a CCTV camera at a petrol station in Ressons, North of Paris, on November 11, 2015 shows Salah Abdeslam (R), a suspect in the Paris attack of November 13, and Mohamed Abrini (C) buying goods. Abrini was arrested on April 8, 2016, according to police sources. (AFP PHOTO / OFF)
This file video image taken from a CCTV camera at a gas station in Ressons, North of Paris, on November 11, 2015 shows Salah Abdeslam (R), a suspect in the Paris attack of November 13, and Mohamed Abrini (C) buying goods. Abrini was arrested on April 8, 2016, according to police sources. (AFP PHOTO / OFF)

The two airport bombers have been identified as Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, believed to be the cell’s bomb maker.

Ibrahim’s younger brother Khalid blew himself up at Maalbeek metro station, not far from the European Union quarter in Brussels, shortly after the airport blasts.

On Monday, Austrian prosecutors revealed that they are examining whether a Pakistani national held in Salzburg in connection with the Paris attacks was also linked to the 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India in 2008, in which 164 people were killed and more than 300 wounded.

A source in Paris and the Sunday Times said that the man is thought to be a bomb maker for Pakistani extremist organizations Lashkar e-Taiba and s, groups which are allegedly linked to al-Qaeda and which India blames for Mumbai and other high-profile attacks.

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