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France Charges Suspect in Foiled Terrorist Plat

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 – 10:45 AM

(AFP) France on Wednesday charged the main suspect in a foiled attack plot, found with an arsenal of weapons and explosives at his home, with membership of a terrorist organization.

The move comes as investigators step up efforts to smash a tangled web of Islamic State-linked extremists blamed for both the November Paris attacks and last week’s suicide bombings on Brussels airport and metro that killed 32 people.

French national Reda Kriket, 34, was arrested near Paris last week and a police raid on his apartment netted a cache of assault rifles, handguns and TATP, the highly volatile homemade explosive favoured by IS jihadists.

His arrest came just four months after the jihadist carnage that claimed 130 lives in Paris, and investigators said another major attack had been in an “advanced stage” of planning.

Two other suspects charged in Belgium over the foiled attack plot are to he held in custody for another week, the federal prosecutor said Wednesday. Abderrahmane A., 38, and Rabah M., 34, were charged with “participation in a terrorist group”.

Their arrests highlighted the extensive links investigators are finding between French and Belgian Islamic State cells behind the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Another French suspect, Anis B., was arrested in Rotterdam in Sunday in connection with the new Paris plot and is fighting extradition to France.

Kriket, who is linked to the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, was found guilty in absentia in Brussels in July of being part of a jihadist recruitment network and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Investigations showed Kriket played a key role in financing the network with money from robberies and stolen goods.

Among those who went to Syria through the network were Abdelhamid Abaaoud — the suspected ringleader of the November Paris onslaught — and another Paris attacker, Chakib Akrouh. 

– Brussels airport still closed –

Brussels airport said it would remain closed to passenger flights until at least late Thursday afternoon as the operator carried out further tests for a partial restart.

“The evaluation of the trial is still ongoing and will take at least till tomorrow afternoon. No flights till then,” the airport operator said Wednesday on Twitter.

The airport has been shut since suicide bombers Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew themselves up in the departure hall on March 22. 

Criticism of authorities’ handling of the attacks probe has mounted after the sole suspect charged over the attacks was freed on Monday for lack of evidence.

Prosecutors had charged the suspect, named by media as Faycal Cheffou, with “terrorist murder” and were investigating whether he was the third airport attacker who fled after his bomb did not detonate.

But the hunt is now back on for the so-called “man in the hat”, seen in CCTV footage next to the two suicide bombers at the airport.

Belgium has been accused of missing a series of leads linking the Paris attacks to those behind the Brussels bombings.

In the most damning revelation, Turkey said Belgium ignored warnings from Ankara after it deported airport suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui as a “terrorist fighter” last year following his arrest near the Syrian border.

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