Belgian police shot a suspect as part of a huge European terror crackdown that yielded several arrests on Friday as France’s president said a militant network that targeted both Paris and Brussels was being “destroyed.”
Grieving Belgians held prayers in the rain in a central Brussels square carpeted with flowers and tributes to the 31 dead and 300 wounded in Tuesday’s carnage, but there was also growing anger at the government for letting a string of militants slip through the net.
The raids came as under-fire Belgian investigators uncovered alarming new evidence of a European extremist cell tied to bombings at Brussels’ airport and metro, November last year’s Paris attacks and a new French plot.
“Even if the one that committed the attacks in Paris and Brussels is in the process of being destroyed ... there is still a heavy threat,” French President Francois Hollande said.
European authorities are under huge pressure to better coordinate the tracking of homegrown extremists and fighters returning from Syria, as evidence grows of a thriving extremist network straddling France and Belgium.
A Belgian parliamentary commission on Friday heard from the ministers of justice, foreign affairs and the interior on how suicide bomber Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and his brother Khalid managed to evade Belgian authorities.
French police said they had foiled a terror strike in France by 34-year-old Reda Kriket — a man previously convicted in Belgium in a terror case alongside Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud — after arresting him and discovering explosives at his home.
Belgian police later arrested three people in connection with the new French conspiracy, prosecutors said.
In dramatic scenes, one of the suspects was shot in the leg at a tram stop in broad daylight in a huge operation by police in the Belgian capital’s Schaerbeek district, where police found a bomb factory linked to the Brussels attacks.
Deepening the links, Belgian prosecutors revealed that Brussels airport bomber Najim Laachraoui’s DNA was found on a suicide vest and a piece of cloth at the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were killed during November’s Paris attacks, and on a bomb at the Stade de France stadium.
A huge search is still under way for at least two suspects — one of the airport attackers whose bomb failed to go off and another man seen in the metro with the bomber there.
Investigators also said Khalid el-Bakraoui rented an apartment in Brussels used by key Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was taken into custody in the Belgian capital on March 18.
The nation’s federal prosecutor revealed Abdeslam “has invoked his right to silence” and has not spoken to investigators since a few brief interviews the day after his arrest.
US officials confirmed that two US nationals were among the Brussels dead. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he stood by the Belgian people, echoing their backing of the US after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Then, voices across Europe declared: ‘Je suis Americain’. Now, we declare: ‘Je suis Bruxellois’ and ‘Ik ben Brussel,’” Kerry said in French and Flemish, the country’s two main languages, after meeting Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Harrowing stories continued to emerge from survivors of the attacks, in which people from about 40 nations were killed or wounded.
Briton David Dixon, 51, who lived in Brussels, sent his aunt a text message after the airport blasts to say he was safe, but happened to be on the metro system when a suicide bomber blew himself up, British media reported.
Officials confirmed the deaths of young Dutch siblings Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski, who were reportedly on the telephone with family members when the airport bomb went off.
Among only three fatalities formally named so far was Peruvian Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, 37. A Chinese national was also confirmed among those killed.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after