Attacks in Paris, Brussels may have been part of single Islamic State operation, says Belgium's federal prosecutor

Brussels: The Paris and Brussels attacks, a botched shooting on a high-speed train and a foiled plot in Belgium may have all been part of one big Islamic State operation, Belgium's federal prosecutor said on Monday.

Speaking on the second anniversary of the 13 November Paris attacks, chief prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw confirmed for the first time what investigators have been saying privately about the possible links. "We indeed realise that Verviers, Thalys, 13 November and the 22 March attacks may have been one big operation by Daesh," the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, Van Leeuw told Belgian radio.

Verviers is a city in French-speaking Belgium where an armed police raid on 15 January, 2015 — shortly after an attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris — led to the dismantling of a cell suspected of plotting to attack the police.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The investigation found that the Verviers cell was directed from abroad by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Moroccan Belgian who fought for Islamic State in Syria and played a key role in the 13 November Paris attacks before he was killed by a French police raid days later. Abaaoud is also believed to have ordered the botched attack by Moroccan gunman Ayoub El Khazzani on the high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris on 21 August, 2015.

Three men linked to Abaaoud were charged in the last few weeks in France and Belgium in connection with the Thalys attack. "We have to dig," Van Leeuw said, adding the investigations were getting harder as detectives no longer had access to some telephone data.

Investigators said the 13 November gun and bomb attacks in Paris showed that they were largely organised from Belgium by Abaaoud's network who were acting on orders from the IS high command in Syria and Iraq.

The attacks cost the lives of 130 people.

Investigators said other members believed to have been from the same Belgian-French cell carried out the 22 March, 2016 suicide bombings in Belgium that killed 32 people.

Updated Date: Nov 14, 2017 07:31 AM

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