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Terrorism & Security

Belgium charges six with connections to a terrorist group

A yearlong investigation led to the arrests and charges, which come amid an EU summit in Brussels. One suspect is believed to have been preparing for a suicide attack.

By Huma Yusuf / December 12, 2008

Belgian authorities on Friday charged six people suspected of links to Al Qaeda with membership in a terrorist group. On Thursday, 14 people suspected of Al Qaeda links were arrested by police. The sweep occurred on the eve of a European Union summit in Brussels. According to Belgian federal officials, at least some of the detained suspects had traveled to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for training and were said to have been affiliated with "important people" in Al Qaeda. Eight suspects were released on Friday after a judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to keep them in detention.

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According to the Associated Press, the six charged included one who may have been plotting a suicide attack.

A judge decided there was insufficient evidence to hold eight other suspects picked up in Thursday's anti-terror sweep. The raids came hours before the start of a European Union summit of 27 government leaders in the Belgian capital.
Spokeswoman Lieve Pellens of the federal prosecutor's office said the six charged early Friday constituted the hard core of a terrorist group and included one militant who allegedly was plotting a suicide attack.

The suspect had been making preparations for the attack, the BBC reports.

The man suspected of planning the suicide attack had "received the green light to carry out an operation from which he was not expected to come back", the federal prosecutor [Johan Delmulle] quoted investigators as saying.
"He had said goodbye to his loved ones, because he wanted to enter paradise with a clear conscience," he added.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the detained suspects included militants who had fought against US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Belgian investigators said they had intercepted Internet communications from militants who described their experiences in combat in Afghanistan during the last year.
"They would say things like, 'I wasn't able to communicate for a while because it was really tough, we got bombed by the Americans,' " said a Belgian anti-terrorism official who requested anonymity because of the continuing investigation. "Or they talked about helping a brother who had been wounded in combat."
...The suspects were active in the underworld of Belgian robbery gangs before they became Islamic extremists, the anti-terrorism official said.

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