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Belgium charges new suspect in Paris probe

January 22, 2016

A court in Brussels charged another Belgian suspect in the growing list of defendants allegedly related to the Paris massacre. Despite the authorities' efforts, four more fugitives remain at large.

Belgien Brüssel Terroralarm
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Roge

The man "has been charged with terrorist murders and participation in the activities of a terrorist group," the prosecutor's office said in a statement on Friday.

The authorities identified the suspect as Zakaria J., a Belgian national born in 1986. He was arrested during a police raid in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek two days ago.

Zakaria thus became the 11th person to face charges over the Paris attacks.

The police also detained a Moroccan national, Mustafa E., during the raid, but released him the next day.

Pulling the strings from Belgium

Brussels, especially the troubled Molenbeek area, proved to be a key site in for the investigators of the Paris terror strikes. The investigators have already established that four of the Paris suicide bombers had either lived in Belgium, or were Belgians of Moroccan origin.

According to the French President Francois Hollande, the IS massacre was initiated from Syria, but the attacks - which claimed 130 lives in November last year – were prepared and organized in Belgium.

At least two of the four fugitives in the Paris case hail from Molenbeek: Salah Abdeslam, who allegedly drove suicide bombers to the French national stadium near Paris, and Mohamed Abrini, who is suspected of helping scout out the attack sites.

'Jokes' about Abdeslam

Also on Friday, the authorities released one of the 11 accused from custody, saying that there were "no longer sufficient indications of guilt against him."

Twenty-two year old Ayoub Bazarouj from Molenbeek remains charged with "terrorist murder," Federal prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said.

Bazarouj was arrested after alluding to Salah Abdeslam during telephone converstations, in what his lawyer claims were "jokes."

"He knew of Salah Abdeslam as he lived in the area, but he was not a friend and there are no elements showing that he provided help in any way," his attorney Yannick De Vlamynck said.

dj/kms(AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)