Attack evidence of the Paris carnage has been found in Belgium. Police searched an apartment they believe was used as a factory to make explosives used in the November terror attacks.
Handmade belts that could be used to carry explosives and the fingerprint of Paris attacks fugitive Salah Abdeslam were found during the search, which took place December 10 in the Schaerbeek neighborhood of the Belgian capital.
Salah Abdeslam has been the subject of a Europe-wide search on accusations he was part of the group that killed 130 people in the French capital on November 13.
According to an NBC report, Eric Van Der Sypt, a prosecutor’s office spokesman, said the following.
“Salah went back to this house when he left Paris after the night of Nov. 13 because he had nowhere else to go. We know he was picked up later and taken to another safe house.”
Police found three homemade suicide belts, traces of the explosive TATP (acetone peroxide), and “material that can be used to fabricate explosives,” according to the prosecutor.
Acetone peroxide is a general ingredient in the DIY explosive devices used by terrorist groups around the world because of its low cost and relative ease to obtain.
Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported that the investigators believed the explosives were probably packed into suicide belts in a hotel outside Paris in the lead up to the November 13 attacks. Abdeslam’s fingerprint was not dated. The prosecutor’s office said the apartment had been rented under a false identity that may have been used by one of 10 people arrested in Belgium in connection with the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.
Schaerbeek is one of the better districts in the north-east of Brussels, and the raids took place near one of the capital’s most lavish avenues. While Molenbeek has a high concentration of Moroccan-origin Muslims – heavily represented amongst the Paris attacks – Schaerbeek has a small but significant community of Turkish and Balkan Muslims.
Three suicide bombers were among the Paris attackers, including Abdeslam’s brother, Brahim.
Belgian police have been on a lookout for Abdeslam ever since the Paris attacks. Police waited two days after the attacks to raid another apartment where they thought he may have been hiding. However, that search didn’t locate Abdeslam, and police later admitted no one knows where he could be.
The Independent reported that an explosive belt was found dumped in a bin in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge 10 days after the attacks, near where Abdeslam was traced to on the night.
Investigators also now believe that two men controlled the November 13 attacks by sending SMS text messages from Belgium during the evening according to reports in the Belgian media.
These two men traveled with Abdeslam to Hungary in September using fake identity cards with the names Samir Bouzid and Soufiane Kayal. Prosecutors appealed to the public for help on December 4 in their hunt. Grainy images of their faces can be found on the federal police’s website.
According to Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique, the two, clearly older than the attackers, are believe to have played a pivotal role in assuring logistics for the operation that was months in the planning. The same false identity of Soufiane Kayal was used to rent a property in the Belgian town of Auvelais that possibly served as a safe house. The other false identity card, for Samir Bouzid, was used four days after the attacks to transfer 750 euros at a Western Union office in Brussels to Hasna Aitboulahcen, who died in a police assault in St. Denis on November 18.
Separately, federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw warned in an interview on broadcaster VTM late on Thursday that the January 15 anniversary of a foiled attack on Belgian soil could prompt someone to launch an attack in the country. He said the following.
“We know that they opt for symbolic dates although on the other hand no one knows why Charlie Hebdo took place on Jan. 7.”
The latest evidence of an explosive device might signal that a suicide bombing attack was planned at some point in Brussels.
[Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images]