The Belgian Federal Police conducted twelve house searches Thursday in Brussels, Aarlen, Nijvel and Tongeren. This occurred as part of an investigation regarding Abdelkader Belliraj, the Belgian Moroccan who is under arrest in Morocco on suspicion of terrorism. Eleven people were arrested and seven will most probably be extradited to Morocco. The police action was partially by request of the Moroccan authorities, but took place also as part of the investigation by the federal police into the terrorist organization of which Belliraj was part of.
Lieve Pellens, spokesperson for the police, said that after the arrest of Belliraj in Morocco they opened an investigation themselves into the possible terrorist organization that was or is active in Belgium and Morocco. After the statements Abdelkader Belliraj gave in Morocco, the Moroccan authorities wrote out seventeen international arrest warrants. Fourteen of those wanted people are staying in Belgium.
The federal police then checked who of those fourteen are considered for extradition, according to the spokesperson. Several have double nationality, and therefore they had to check whether they were Belgian at the time of the crimes. If that was so, they could not be extradited in any case. For three people the police thought their files were not serious enough in order to justify their extradition.
In the end seven people could be extradited, and these seven were arrested in Thursday's searches. They will be brought to court, which will start their extradition process.
Besides the seven for which extradition was requested, the investigators arrested four other people Thursday. The Moroccan authorities also asked for their extradition, but they will not be put under consideration for that. They will be interrogated, but will in principal not be arrested.
Of the eleven arrested, three incurred sentences in the past. One was sentenced for terrorism in the GICM file, a second in the GIA file in the mid-90s and a third has a crime sheet for serious crimes.
Some of the house searches were conducted as part of an investigation by the Brussels police. In the connection, one suspect was arrested, but the Brussels police asked that no further information be given out, since the investigation is still in a too delicate phase, according to Estelle Arpigny, spokesperson for the Brussels police.
A rocket launcher was found during a series of house searches against a gang of weapon traders, according to VRT news.
This was a portable model that can easily be fired by a person. The find was striking since the head of the gang, Abderrahim Bekhti, was also named in the ABdelkader Belliraj file.