Belgium to request extradition of terror suspect arrested in Greece
Belgium will request the extradition of a suspect arrested in Greece who could be connected to a jihadist cell smashed by Belgian security forces earlier this week, federal prosecutors said Sunday.
“Out of two suspects arrested, there is one who could be linked” to the group, the prosecutors’ spokesman Thierry Werts told RTL television. “There are sufficient elements to seek his extradition,” he said.
He declined to comment on the identity of the suspect or his alleged role in the cell, which according to Belgian police was planning to kill police officers.
A Greek police source said the suspect was a 31-year-old Algerian who served jail time in Greece on a robbery conviction but was released nearly a year ago.
The source said the cell phones of the two suspects were seized during the arrests in central Athens.
Belgian media earlier named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the presumed mastermind of the cell, which was dismantled in an anti-terror raid in eastern Belgium on Thursday. Two suspects were killed in the police operation.
Belgium’s Flemish-language VTM channel reported that Abaaoud had made calls from Greece to the brother of one of the two heavily armed suspects killed in the town of Verviers.
Justice Minister Koen Geens said Sunday that Abaaoud was not one of the two suspects detained in Athens and remained at large.
The second suspect was released from custody without charge on Sunday, a Greek police source said.
The foiled attacks in Belgium have prompted arrests in several European countries. Belgium has so far charged five people with “participating in the activities of a terrorist group” and has requested the extradition of two suspects arrested in France.
Belgium estimates that 335 of its people have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq in the last few years — making it the European country with the highest proportion of nationals enlisted with Middle Eastern jihadist groups.
Of the 335 who have gone to fight — out of a population of 11 million — 184 are still there and 50 have been killed, while 101 have returned to Belgium, authorities have said.