Manhunt launched for newly identified Paris attacks suspect Najim Laachraoui – CNN

Laachraoui’s DNA was found in the Auvelais villa and another house in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels that the group used, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said Monday. Laachraoui had gone to Syria in February of 2013, the statement said.

Authorities warned that Laachraoui was considered dangerous and should not be approached.

Police are also searching for Mohammed Abrini, a previously identified suspected accomplice of Abdeslam’s who is believed to have driven him to Paris to carry out the attacks, which were claimed by the Sunni terror group ISIS.

Abdeslam has been charged with participation in a terrorist murder and taking part in the activities of a terrorist organization.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins has said Abdeslam, 26, had a key role in planning the attacks, in which nine terrorists killed 130 people with guns and bombs in Parisian restaurants, shops and a concert venue the night of November 13.

At a press conference in Brussels on Monday, Belgium’s federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said the investigation still had some way to go.

“We have a certain number of pieces of the puzzle and some pieces have found their place, but we’re far from having completed the puzzle,” he said.

Paris terror attacks: complete coverage

Lawyer: Abdeslam felt ‘a form of relief’ about capture

Abdeslam’s lawyer, Sven Mary, said in a radio interview Monday with Belgian state broadcaster Radio 1 that he believed his client felt some relief about being caught after months on the run.

“I think that there was a form of relief, in the sense that the hunt was over,” said Mary.

The lawyer, who met with his client Saturday, said he was cooperating with authorities and would eventually be transferred to France.

“There’s not a single reason he wouldn’t go to France. The only thing I wish for is to confirm the legality of the arrest warrant — I think that is my job as lawyer. It is not a question of killing time not to go to France.”

Mary had told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF on Sunday that he intended to file a complaint about remarks made by Molins, the Paris prosecutor, in which he had publicly disclosed, at a news conference, information gleaned by Belgian authorities during his interrogation.

Molins had told reporters that Abdeslam told investigators that he had planned to blow himself up at the Stade de France, one of the targets of the attacks, but simply backed down.

However, the prosecutor said he was suspicious about that claim, reminding reporters that in a communique issued by ISIS after the attacks, the terror group mentioned the commissioning of an attack in the 18th district of the French capital, where none took place.

Abdeslam was known to have driven to the 18th after dropping off suicide bombers at the Stade de France.

Mary continued his criticism of Molins on Monday, saying: “We don’t have a single lesson to learn from France. Period.”

The inside story of the Paris attacks

Attackers’ networks bigger than thought

Abdeslam’s ability to remain at large for more than four months since the attacks and the apparent lack of information that authorities had on his movements have fueled concerns about the extent of the networks supporting the suspect.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon admitted to CNN on Sunday that he was surprised that Abdeslam had been apprehended in Brussels, as it had been believed that he had left the country.

“We don’t know what he did for these four months. Did he stay in Brussels the whole time, or did he travel around?” he said, adding that the fugitive’s support network was bigger than anticipated.

His comments were echoed by Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who said Sunday that the investigation that led to Abdeslam’s capture had shown that more people were involved in the Paris attacks than previously thought.

“After the terror attacks in Paris, I said to one TV channel in the U.S. that we were searching for around 10 people with heavy weapons. We have far more than that since November, and not only in Belgium but also in France,” he said.

“For the moment we have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but we are sure there are others.”

Abdeslam’s arrest had resulted in authorities recovering a large number of heavy weapons, he said.

“He was ready to restart something in Brussels,” Reynders said.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the attorney general in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe told CNN that Abdeslam had visited the town of Ulm a month before the attacks. The city is known as a stronghold for Islamists, some of whom are fighting for ISIS in Syria.

Spokeswoman Frauke Kohler said she could release no further details while police investigate.

After Abdeslam’s arrest, six critical questions

Other charges in Friday raid

Belgian State Security Chief Jaak Raes told CNN Belgian affiliate VTM News on Sunday that the threat posed to Europe by ISIS was far from over.

“We know that a number of people are possibly on their way to Western Europe, with the intention of conducting an attack — to, with the ‘jihad mentality,’ do damage to Western democracy,” he warned.

After the raid that captured Abdeslam, police charged Monir Ahmed Alaaj, also known as Amine Choukri, with the same crimes as Abdeslam. Alaaj was also wounded in Friday’s gunbattle.

Three others were detained in the operation, one of whom was charged with participating in a terror group’s activities and hiding criminals, and another with hiding criminals. The third was freed without being charged.


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