Brussels attackers originally targeted France, Belgium says

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 9:33 PM

But the perpetrators were “surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation” and decided to rush an attack on Brussels instead of going back to France, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Brussels attackers originally targeted France, Belgium says

The extremists who struck Brussels latest mo and killed thirty-two people initially planned to launch a second assault on France in the wake of the Nov attacks in Paris, Belgian authorities said Sunday.

But the perpetrators were “surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation” and decided to rush an attack on Brussels instead of going back to France, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement. It didn’t allow any details on the initial French plot or its targets.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said it amounted to “a filthy war” when more attacks could be expected in Belgium, France or beyond.

“Once the intention is there, the space of execution is rather secondary,” Geens told VRT network. “If we safe one place, another target opens up.”

Two suicide bombers killed sixteen people at Brussels Airport on March twenty-two. A subsequent explosion at Brussels’ Maelbeek subway Sta killed another sixteen people the same morning. Investigators have found links between the cell behind those attacks and the grouping that killed one hundred thirty people in Paris on Nov. thirteen.

Sunday’s statement provides proof of what many had suspected: the series of raids and arrests in the week leading up to the Brussels attacks – including the capture of key Paris attacks fugitive Salah Abdeslam – pushed the killers to action.

A laptop seized from a rubbish can on a Str exterior the suicide bombers latest known address contained a message purportedly from Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who blew himself up in the airport attack, that indicated he was expecting to be arrested imminently following the arrest of Abdeslam.

In it, prosecutors said El Bakraoui wrote that he felt “in a hurry,” and “no longer knowing what to do,” and “being hunted from everywhere” – all indications they might've looked for a speedier attack than initially planned.

Belgian police detained four men in Brussels raids over the weekend who were charged with participating in “terrorist murders” and the “activities of a terrorist group” in relation to the Brussels attacks. One of them, Mohamed Abrini, has also been charged in relation to the Paris attacks, prosecutors said.

Abrini has acknowledged being the “man in the hat” spotted alongside the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels Airport, executive said. Surveillance footage has also placed him in the convoy with the attackers who headed to Paris ahead of the Nov. thirteen massacre.

Abrini was a childhood companion of Brussels brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam, both suspects in the Paris attacks, and he'd ties to Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the Paris attackers’ ringleader who died in a French police raid shortly afterward. Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up in the Paris bombings while Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March eighteen – four days before the attacks there – after a four-month manhunt.

Geens insisted people shouldn't obtain their hopes up too much.

“We can hope that the cell around Abdeslam and Abbaoud is just about caught but we shouldn't believe it. In any case we necessity to stay very alert and new cells can population up at any moment. The facts have already taught us that,” Geens said.

“It is a dirty war which is unpleasant for France, for Belgium, or for the other nations in western Europe, because number one is immune,” Geens said.

The French government had similar thoughts. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the news was one more reason to stay lively to the threat of extremism in France.

“We won’t relax our vigilance,” he told reporters in Algiers, where he's on an official visit.

The other suspects charged over the weekend were identified as Osama Krayem, who left the Swedish city of Malmo to fight in Syria and was described by one relative as having been “brainwashed.” Also charged were Herve B. M., a Rwandan national, and Bilal E. M.

The past couple of days’ developments represent a scarce success for Belgian authorities, who have been repeatedly criticized for bungling the bombings investigation. Despite the progress, Brussels remains below the second-highest terror alert, meaning an attack is still considered likely.

In a separate development, Brussels’ STIB transport network announced that twelve stations closed since the attacks would reopen on Monday. Eighteen of the capital’s sixty-nine stations will stay closed until further notice, including Maelbeek.

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