Belgian authorities locate Paris attackers’ safe houses
A number of the attackers who carried out the November attacks in Paris used two apartments and a house in Belgium as possible safe houses in the weeks in leading up to the attacks, investigators said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Federal prosecutors said in a statement, summarizing some of their findings, that the Paris attack plotters had rented an apartment in Brussels and another in the city of Charleroi at the start of September.
They had also rented a house in the town of Auvelais, located some 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of Brussels, at the start of October.
All three were rented for a year, and paid in cash. The tenants gave false identities, according to Reuters.
Investigators found DNA traces of one of the attackers, Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself up in Paris on November 13, the prosecutors said.
In the Charleroi apartment they found mattresses and fingerprints of both Hadfi and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian who had fought in Syria and was believed to be one of the plot leaders.
Abaaoud died on November 18 in a shootout with police in St. Denis north of Paris at an apartment where he had been staying. He had planned attacks on Jewish targets in France as well.
Investigators have also established that the Seat Leon hatchback used in the Paris attacks stopped near the suspected safe houses in Charleroi and Auvelais, according to the Reuters report. Another vehicle, a BMW rented by a suspect, stopped near all three locations.
Belgium has been conducting raids on terror targets ever since the November 13 ISIS attacks in Paris, particularly in the Molenbeek district of Brussels where the terrorists are believed to have come from.
Belgium’s security services were on the defensive after the attacks when they were accused of blunders, infighting and worrying leniency towards radicalism that let the perpetrators of the Paris attacks slip under the radar.
Meanwhile, key suspect Salah Abdeslam, the only direct participant in the Paris attacks who is still believed to be alive, is still on the run from authorities and is nowhere to be found.
Earlier this week, the first images of Abdeslam were released, showing him along with a friend at a petrol station on the Belgium border shortly after fleeing France.