Suspect quizzed over Paris attacks as Brussels remains in lockdown

Suspect quizzed over Paris attacks as Brussels remains in lockdown

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A suspect linked to the Paris attackers is being questioned by French authorities as the Belgian capital remains locked down under threat of a possible similar attack.

Jawad Bendaoud, the only person in France facing potential terrorism charges linked to the November 13 attacks which killed 130 people, was handed over to an anti-terrorism judge in Paris on Tuesday morning.

Bendaoud was detained last week for providing lodging to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Three people were killed when police raided the apartment on November 18, including Abaaoud and a female cousin.

A Belgian police officer guards the building of the European Commission in Brussels. Pic: AP Photo/Michael Probst
Bendaoud acknowledged in a telephone interview giving shelter to two people from Belgium but said he did not know who they were or what they planned.

The 29-year-old told BFM television: “I didn’t know they were terrorists. I was asked to do a favour. I did a favour, sir.”
He must be either charged or released on Tuesday.

Four people have been handed terrorism charges in Belgium since the Paris attacks, which have been traced to a network of people with ties to both France and Belgium.

Brussels remained at its highest alert level on Tuesday, after Belgian prime minister Charles Michel cited a “serious and imminent threat” to the city, which houses the headquarters of the European Union and Nato.

Belgium’s crisis centre said the alert level would only change if a significant breakthrough warranted it.

Increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital, with the subway system, many shops and schools remaining shut.

Mr Michel said that despite the continued high-alert level, schools would reopen on Wednesday.

Many questions remain unanswered as investigators try to piece together what happened and who might still be at large.

Only one fugitive has been publicly named – Salah Abdeslam, who crossed into Belgium the morning after the attacks.

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A street cleaner in a Paris suburb discovered an explosive vest on Monday near the place where Abdeslam’s mobile phone was found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Authorities said the device, which did not have a detonator, was found in a pile of rubble in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.

A police official said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the attacks on the French capital.

Meanwhile, French and Russian authorities announced they will increase security at fan zones at next year’s European Championship and the 2018 World Cup following the attacks.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said security for Euro 2016 from June 10 to July 10 in France will be reinforced to ensure “the fan zones will be put in place”.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who chairs the organising committee for the World Cup, said there was a particular focus on protecting crowds gathered in fan zones, where security is often lighter than at stadiums.

After a meeting with Fifa officials, Mr Mutko said “the security measures will naturally be strengthened in connection with the circumstances in the world”.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve held a meeting with French Muslim leaders, who have denounced the attacks and expressed concern about a backlash on France’s largely moderate, five-million-strong Muslim community.

French police have also released a photo of a dog killed in the Saint-Denis apartment siege, a seven-year-old Belgian shepherd named Diesel. The National Police said Diesel was “killed by terrorists”.

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