Brussels: A Belgian terror cell with links to the Paris and Brussels attacks had acquired bomb-making chemicals before it was smashed by police last year, a judge said today at the opening of the trial of the cell’s members.
Seven men who went on trial today in a Brussels court were arrested after a deadly raid in the Belgian town of Verviers in January 2015 which exposed an alleged plot to kill police officers. Nine suspects who are still at large are being tried in their absence.
The presiding judge, Pierre Hendrickx, said the police who raided the Verviers hideout discovered weapons, munitions and chemical products that could have been used to make four kilograms (8.8 pounds) of TATP.
TATP is the highly volatile homemade explosives that Islamic State jihadists used in both the November 13 Paris attacks and the March 22 Brussels bombings. Hendrickx listed the chemicals as five litres (1.3 gallons) of bleach, 15 litres of acetone and 12 litres of hydrogen peroxide. He said police also found an electrical item that could have been used as a detonator.
The judge said the police, backed by French GIGN paramilitary officers, also seized three AK-47 assault rifles, four handguns, hundreds of cartridges and material that could have made police uniforms.
Police believe Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of November’s Paris attacks, was giving orders to the Verviers cell by phone from Greece using the name of ‘Omar.’ Abaaoud, who was killed in a shootout in Paris days after the attacks, also had close links to the cell behind the Brussels airport and metro attacks.
French President Francois Hollande has said the same terror cell was behind the Paris massacre, in which gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people, and the Brussels attacks in which 32 people died. Both attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.