28-01-2023 04:08 PM Jerusalem Timing

Belgium Arrests Key Paris, Brussels Attacks Suspects

Belgium Arrests Key Paris, Brussels Attacks Suspects

Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini was arrested along with four other people in a series of raids Friday linked to the deadly Brussels airport and metro bombings.

Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini was arrested along with four other people in a series of raids Friday linked to the deadly Brussels airport and metro bombings, federal prosecutors said.

The arrests mark an important step in the investigation into the cell believed to have carried out both the November 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and the March 22 bombings that left 32 dead in Brussels.

Both attacks were claimed by the so-called 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL) takfiri group,  sending alarm bells across Europe.

"Mohamed Abrini was arrested in Anderlecht," a gritty Brussels neighborhood, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office told a news conference in the Belgian capital.

The spokesman said Abrini was arrested along with two other unidentified people.

The police operation in Anderlecht ended shortly before 11 pm (2100 GMT), according to media reports.

RTL television showed footage of what it said was likely Abrini's arrest, with a man pinned down on the sidewalk by several armed plain-clothed police wearing facemasks and then being bundled into a grey civilian car.

Abrini, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, was seen at a petrol station north of Paris two days before the attacks with other top suspect Salah Abdeslam, who drove one of the vehicles used in the November 13 bomb and gun assault across the French capital.

Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim blew himself up in Paris, fled back to Brussels immediately afterwards and was finally captured March 18 in the capital, just round the corner from his family's home in the Molenbeek district.

He is now awaiting extradition to France.

Immediately after the Brussels attacks there was intense speculation that Abrini was the third man seen on CCTV with the two suicide bombers at the airport shortly before they blew themselves up.

The two bombers were identified as Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, believed to be the bomb maker.

A police video released Thursday showed this third man, wearing a hat and light-coloured jacket, fleeing the scene and making his way back on foot into central Brussels where he disappeared from view.