Belgium: Al-Qaeda cell apprehended

The federal police of Brussels arrested three people today who had contacts with al-Qaeda.  One suspect was possibly planning to commit a suicide attack.  In total, 14 people were arrested and 16 sites were searched, reports the federal prosecution.

The federal police was acting in a federal criminal investigation led by specialized terrorism investigating magistrates.  Since the end of 2007, four Belgiam from Belgium have joined the MG group in the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the investigation.  According to the investigation various people left for the region in order to take part in fighting or in training.  There are direct contacts between this group and high-placed people in al-Qaeda.

Three of these four suspects further returned to Belgium.  Two of them had already been back several months in Belgium and were followed by the police.  The third came back December 4th, 2008 and played a more important part within the organization.

From recent information it appears that this third suspect was possibly planning to commit a suicide attack.  Those involved got the green light for an operation and he was of the opinion that he wouldn't come back from his mission.  Further it appears that he'd parted from his loved ones.  There is also talk of a video, perhaps a parting video, which would then be delivered by a coordinator to his loved ones.  On December 7th a notice was intercepted which spoke of the evacuation of the women and children.  By former attacks there was also sometimes talk of a similar evacuation.

The federal prosecution can't rule out where the attack would have taken place.  It could have been an operation in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but it's not ruled out that Belgium or Europe was the target.  Seeing that today there's a European summit in Brussels, the investigators and federal prosecution decided to intervene this morning so as not to run risks.

Eleven other people were arrested for interrogation in this same operation.  There were house searches in 16 different places in Brussels and Leige. Numerous computers and documents were confiscated.  No weapons or explosives were found.

The investigation, which has been ongoing for a year, and which occupied 83 investigators, is related to the operation on December 21st last year in the getaway attempt of Nizar Trabelsi.  A group had planned to help Trabelsi but was intercepted by the police.  The investigation into these suspects brought the investigators on track of the group which was arrested today.

From investigation it appears that the operation on December 2007 possibly also prevented an attack in Brussels.  Due to the increased terror alert in December 2007 the group decided to abandon this operation.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

No comments: