Brussels Cell Plotted to Hit Paris Again
But attackers were rushed into hit on Belgium by series of police raids
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2016 5:43 AM CDT
In this Belgian Federal Police handout picture made available Thursday, April 7, 2016 the third suspect of the recent attack on Brussels airport is shown during his escape from the airport.   (Uncredited)
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(Newser) – The Brussels attackers initially planned a second assault on France, but were "surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation" and "urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels," the Federal Prosecution Office said Sunday, per CNN. Investigators found intimate links between the cell behind the Brussels attacks and the group that killed 130 in Paris, reports the AP. Sunday's statement confirms that the raids and arrests in the week leading up to the Brussels attacks—including the capture of key Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam—pushed the killers to action. Belgian authorities detained four men in Brussels raids Friday who were charged with participating in "terrorist murders" and "activities of a terrorist group" in relation to the Brussels attacks. One, Mohamed Abrini, has also been charged in the Paris attacks.

Abrini has been identified as the "man in the hat" spotted with the two bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels Airport. Surveillance footage has also placed him in the convoy with attackers headed to Paris ahead of the Nov. 13 massacre. Abrini was a childhood friend of Salah and Brahim Abdeslam, both suspects in the Paris attacks, and had ties to Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the Paris ringleader who died in a raid shortly after. Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up in Paris while Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18—four days before the attacks there—after a four-month manhunt. Abrini's fingerprints and DNA were not only in a Renault used in the Paris attacks but also in a Brussels apartment used by the airport bombers. Abrini was also believed to have traveled to Syria, where his younger brother died in 2014.