Belgian PM rejects criticism over Paris attacks
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Thursday rejected criticism of his country's security services over the Paris attacks, saying Belgian intelligence led to a huge raid in France targeting the suspected mastermind.
"I do not accept the criticisms which were aimed at denigrating the work of our security services," Michel said in a speech to parliament in which he unveiled new security measures.
"Yesterday, in Saint-Denis (in Paris) an attack was prevented thanks in particular to intelligence provided by Belgian teams," the prime minister added.
French police staged a ferocious seven-hour assault in Saint-Denis on Wednesday after intelligence led investigators to an apartment where the Belgian suspected of orchestrating the worst ever terror attack on French soil was thought to be hiding.
"I want to thank our magistrates, our police officers, our intelligence services for their courage and mobilisation," Michel said. "Thanks to them lives have been saved".
French President Francois Hollande has said that the attacks were "planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium."
The most notorious jihadist connected to Brussels is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, who grew up in the Molenbeek district before going to join the Islamic State group in Syria.
He escaped a raid on a terror cell in Belgium in January which killed two other Islamists but French officials said he was targeted in an operation in Paris on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Molenbeek native Brahim Abdesalam, who blew himself up in front of a cafe in Paris on Friday, and his brother Salah, who is wanted by French authorities over the attacks, were well known to Belgian authorities for radicalism and for running a bar in Molenbeek used by drug dealers to sell and smoke pot.
This year the two were questioned by police on their radical activities, but released without charge and without a report to French authorities.
© 2015 AFP