Belgium reveals identity of accomplice in Paris attacks | News | DW | 21.03.2016
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Belgium reveals identity of accomplice in Paris attacks

Belgian authorities have revealed the true identity of a man who they believe was an accomplice in last November's Paris attacks. The man's DNA has been found at a rented Belgian apartment where the attackers gathered.

The real name of a 24-year-old man who traveled to Hungary last year with the top suspect in the Paris attacks is Najim Laachraoui (pictured above), Belgian prosecutors confirmed on Monday. Until now, he had been known under the false name of Soufiane Kayal.

"The investigation showed that Soufiane Kayal can be identified as Najim Laachraoui, born on May 18, 1991, and who travelled to Syria in February 2013," prosecutors said in a statement in Brussels.

Under the name Soufiane Kayal, Laachraoui rented an apartment in the central Belgian city of Auvelais, which served as a safe house for the Paris attackers.

"Laachraoui's DNA was found at the Auvelais home and at a house in Schaarbeek (in Brussels) which were used by the terrorist group," the prosecutors said in the statement.

The accomplice also used the same fake name on September 9, 2015, at the border between Hungary and Austria. He was travelling with Salah Abdeslam and another attack accomplice Mohamed Belkaid - who used the name Samir Bouzid. When stopped by police, the three said they were tourists traveling to Vienna and did not raise suspicions.

Investigators believe that 26-year-old Abdeslam, a French national with Moroccan origins, is the last surviving member of the terrorist team which carried out the attacks. He was arrested in Brussels last Friday.

Belkaid, a 35-year-old Algerian, was shot dead two days earlier in a police raid in the Forest district of Brussels.

According to authorities, Laachraoui and Belkaid may have spoken to some of the jihadists via phone on November 13, 2015. Some 130 people were killed in the attacks which were carried out across Paris later that night.

Belgian prosecutors asked the public to contact police with any information on Laachraoui or his whereabouts.

Paris attacks still 'a puzzle'

At a joint press conference with his counterpart, French federal prosecutor Francois Molins, Belgium's Frederic Van Leeuw praised the ongoing Paris attacks investigation as a joint effort between Belgian and French police. Van Leeuw also said that numerous questions surrounding the case were yet to be solved.

"We have some pieces of the puzzle and in the last few days several pieces have found their place. But I am still, and we are still, far from solving the puzzle," Van Leeuw said at the news conference.

Although the two prosecutors remained tight-lipped on most details in the expansive case, Molins did say he expected that it would take around three months until Abdeslam could be transferred to France.

"The French justice system expects him to be transferred," Molins added during the press conference. "We must give the Belgian justice system time."

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