Belgium says captured Paris suspect may have planned more attacks
BRUSSELS – Reuters
AP photoThe prime surviving suspect in the Paris attacks may have been plotting more operations with the help of a weapons cache and a network of associates, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on March 20.
Reynders, speaking two days after the capture of the attacks’ prime suspect, Salah Abdeslam, said the suspect’s first statement to a magistrate in Brussels suggested further attacks were planned.
“He was ready to restart something from Brussels,” Reynders told a think-tank event. “That is maybe the reality, because we have found a lot of heavy weapons and we have seen a new network around him.”
Reynders said Belgium and France had so far found around 30 people involved in the gun and bomb attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, 2015 in bars, a sports stadium and a concert hall in the French capital.
Meanwhile, Belgian prosecutors said March 21 that they had established the real identity of an accomplice in the Paris attacks as 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, until now known by the false name of Soufiane Kayal.
“The investigation showed that Soufiane Kayal can be identified as Najim Laachraoui, born on May 18, 1991 and who travelled to Syria in February 2013,” prosecutors said in a statement in Brussels.
Laachraoui as Soufiane Kayal rented an appartment in Auvelais, near the central Belgian city of Namur, from where the attacks were planned.
He used the same false name at the border between Austria and Hungary on September 9 when he was travelling with Abdeslam and Mohamed Belkaid.
Europe’s most wanted suspect’s lawyer launched a furious legal fight to avoid extradition to France.
Abdeslam’s lawyer Sven Mary said his client would fight his extradition to Paris beginning with a legal complaint against a French prosecutor who divulged the details of the first interrogation with the suspect to journalists on Saturday.
“I don’t understand why a prosecutor in Paris has to communicate at this stage on an investigation in Belgium,” Mary told Le Soir newspaper on March 20.
Abdeslam “is worth gold. He is collaborating, he’s communicating, he is not using his right to remain silent,” Mary said, urging patience.