15 Jan 2015

Belgium arrest as police probe Europe-wide terror links

Police across Europe are probing the wider network behind the Paris terror attacks as Belgian authorities arrest a man over possibly supplying ammunition to one of the Paris gunman.

Authorities in Spain, Bulgaria, France and Belgium have this week been probing and taking action on suspects across the continent as they seek to examine the possibility of a wider network being behind to the Paris attacks.

Police on Wednesday announced in a report that they had searched a house and identified a potential fourth suspect in the attacks, beyond the two Kouachi brothers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office and Amedy Coulibaly who killed four customers during a siege at a Jewish supermarket.

“We are really in a war,” said French police union spokesman Christophe Crepin, and that the police “have put our finger on some extremely dangerous people, men and women.”

Belgian ammunition

Belgian media reported that a man handed himself in to police in the city of Charleroi on Tuesday, saying he had been in touch with Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages in a Jewish supermarket.

According to the reports, police found that the two men had been negotiating the sale of ammunition for a 7.62mm calibre firearm – the sort of bullets needed for the Tokarev pistol used in the attack.

“Further investigations will have to show whether there is a link with the events in Paris,” said a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecution.

Spanish investigation

In Spain, it was reported that supermarket gunman Coulibaly had spent three days in Madrid prior to the Paris attacks. His partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, is wanted by police, and was already known to have spent a number of days in the Spanish capital before the attacks in Paris.

On Thursday the Spanish high court opened an investigation into the time spent in Spain by the pair and a third party who could have aided Boumeddiene’s escape to Syria. Turkish authorities said that Boumeddiene crossed into Syria the day after the attacks.

Bulgaria warrant

The news comes after a French national already in Bulgarian police custody was identified as a member of a “terrorist criminal group” by investigators who suspect him of being in contact with one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, Cherif Kouachi.

Fritz-Jol Joachim, 28, was arrested in the early morning of New Year’s Day as he tried to slip across the border into Turkey, on allegations of kidnapping his child with a plan to take him to Syria.

Darina Slavova, a local prosecutor in the Bulgarian city of Haskovo, told ABC News that Joachim was linked to the massacre of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and that he would be extradited back to France. His European Arrest Warrant alleges that Joachim had become radicalised in the last two years.

But Joachim denied being part of a terror cell in court on Tuesday, saying “a man can have friends and they can do whatever they want, but I am simply going on vacation and have nothing to do with it.”

On Wednesday al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular claimed responsibility for the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but authorities are also examining the role that the militants with the Islamic State group may have played, with Coulibaly posting a video attributing his attacks to the Islamic State group.