At Least 22 More Suspects Tied to Terror Attacks

'Extensive' terror network that planned Paris, Brussels attacks run out of Belgian district
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2016 12:03 PM CDT
At Least 22 More Suspects Tied to Terror Attacks
Police officers detain a man in the Molenbeek neighborhood in Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

At least two dozen young Islamic radicals linked to the Paris and Brussels attacks are still on the loose, with investigators trying to penetrate the "extensive web" that may be planning more attacks, a Wall Street Journal investigation finds. Scouring court documents and interviews, the paper finds many of these extremists, who apparently met in Belgium's impoverished Molenbeek district, had played a role in other ISIS attacks and fought in Syria for months, or even years, officials say. "We see many plots and several cells that we now know are part of the same network," says the president for Paris' Center for the Analysis of Terrorism. "They're already here. The problem is how to find them." The apparent ringleaders: Abdelhamid Abaaoud—who was killed in a police raid five days after the Paris attacks—and Khalid Zerkani, a preacher-turned-recruiter known as "Santa Claus" who's been in a Belgian jail for two years.

And it's the people Abaaoud was tied to who worry officials most, as he played a major role in ISIS operations in Syria and reportedly pulled many of the group's recruits out of Brussels himself. Family members of young men from Brussels tell authorities of the changes they noticed in their sons and brothers after the men started going to Zerkani's meetings. "One day he threatened to kill me, because I was the devil," one mother says in the court papers (she insists her son is now dead, but officials think he faked his death, per CNN). Another man told investigators that his son-in-law tried to get his daughter to go with him to Afghanistan to become a suicide bomber, and when her family put up a fight, he went without her. "I consider [him] a danger to society," the father-in-law told Belgian authorities. "I think that if he comes back to Belgium, he could commit a bloodbath." Meanwhile, Zerkani told police that the claim he helped run the terror network "has no correspondence to reality," court docs reveal. (Read more Paris terror attacks stories.)

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