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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.

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According to the Guardian, Belgian authorities remain unclear about where the attack was to take place. On Friday, security remained high while the EU summit was underway even though there is no evidence that the meeting had been targeted.

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[Federal prosecutor] Delmulle said it was unclear where the attack had been planned to take place. He said it was possible that a suicide bombing plan might have been drawn up during visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was not clear if any planned attack was aimed at Europe or elsewhere, he added.
Belgian politicians supported the police action. "It is now clear to all that we were dealing with a real risk," the justice and interior ministers said in a statement. "It is more than likely that an attack in Brussels has been prevented."...
British counter-terrorism officials said last night that they were working with Belgian and other European security services to try to establish whether the EU summit was the target. They said they were keeping an "open mind".

According to Mr. Delmulle, Thursday's raids were linked to a similar sweep in December 2007 when 14 people were arrested and accused of plotting to free a convicted Al Qaeda member, Nizar Trabelsi, reports the Guardian. Last year, the accused were released without being charged. But the current detainees are believed to have links to Mr. Trabelsi.

The investigation is focusing on individuals linked to Nizar Trabelsi, a 37-year-old Tunisian former footballer sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 in Belgium for planning to a drive a car bomb into the cafeteria of the Kleine Brogel airbase, where about 100 American military personnel were stationed.
Almost exactly a year ago, Belgian police arrested 14 people alleged to be extremists planning to free Trabelsi. At the time, the government also claimed that it had information suggesting the "preparation of an attack".

Belgian authorities say the yearlong investigation leading up to Thursday's terror sweep will yield a strong case against those arrested, reports the International Herald Tribune.

Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office said ...
she believed the cases against the 14 arrested were strong, based on a year of investigation, surveillance and wiretapping carried out by a team of 80 police officers....
The case, Pellens said, is about terrorism but also about "grand theft and robbery as a way to raise money for the group." She said that "the investigation was complex and intense, and there were times when all the wiretapping chambers were occupied with anti-terrorism guys working this case."

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