Belgium holds four people on terrorism charges
(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Police officers walk on the Avenue des Casernes in Etterbeek Brussels during a police action on April 9 2016. A sixth person was arrested during raids on April 8 over the Brussels airport and metro bombings which netted top Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini the Belgian prosecutor's office said. The prosecutor had said on April 8 that five people had been been arrested but a spokesman confirmed Saturday that a sixth was being held. AFP / Belga / NICOLAS MAETERLINCK
Still unclear whether “man in hat” airport suspect found.
Belgian Prime Minister says will remain vigilant.
One suspect just served sentence on terror conviction.
By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS: Belgium’s public prosecutor charged four men on Saturday with terrorist activity for their suspected roles in last month’s Brussels bombings that killed 32 people and November’s Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives.
The four were arrested on Friday along with two others who were later released. Belgian police raided a suspected safe house in central Brussels on Saturday but found no weapons or explosives and made no further arrests.
Prosecutors said it was not clear whether one of the suspects Belgian Mohamed Abrini was the elusive “man in a hat” filmed by security cameras with two suicide bombers at Brussels Airport on March 22 shortly before they blew themselves up.
Abrini had been on Europe’s most wanted list since December after he was caught by a security camera at a motorway service station with suspected militant Salah Abdeslam while they drove to Paris two days before the attacks there.
“He is charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murder” the Belgian federal prosecutors office said in a statement.
Prosecutors said they also charged Osama K who local media said was a Swede named Osama Krayem adding they were able to identify him as the man present at the time of the attack on the Brussels metro station that same day.
Osama K was seen buying the bags used in the Brussels attacks in a shopping centre there prosecutors said.
The other two were Bilal El Makhoukhi who had already been convicted for working with jihadist recruiters and a Rwandan named Herve B.M. on charges of helping Abrini and Osama K.
The arrests were a sign of success for Belgian security services which have been criticised at home and abroad since Brussels-based militants organised the attacks in Paris and four months later those in the Belgian capital.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said his government would continue to be vigilant about the militant threat.
“We are positive about the recent developments in the investigation. But we know we have to stay alert and cautious” Michel told a news conference in Brussels.
El Makhoukhi was convicted in January last year for being involved in Sharia4Belgium a now disbanded organisation that recruited people to go fight alongside jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq Belgium’s Justice Minister Koen Geens said.
Originally sentenced to five years in prison with three years suspended he was allowed to serve his remaining term at home under electronic monitoring and was released last month Geens told reporters.
“He was under electronic supervision and his sentence ended on March 15” Geens said at a government news conference.
El Makhoukhi was convicted last year following his return to Belgium after losing a leg while fighting in Syria.
Prosecutors said they had charged El Makhouki whom they named as 27-year-old Bilal E.M. with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murders.
“He is suspected of having offered assistance to Mohamed Abrini as well as Osama K” prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Tom Heneghan)