Terror suspects seized in Antwerp and Brussels
19 March 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgian police raided 20 houses in Antwerp, Brussels and Tongres on Friday and arrested a number of men suspected of links with Islamic extremist terror groups, the federal prosecutor’s office has confirmed.
The men are all suspected of having links with an organisation called the Moroccan Islamic Combatants’ Group (MICG).
In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said there was “serious evidence” that north Africans linked to the MICG had received paramilitary training in camps in Afghanistan and were now living in Belgium, several of them with no official residence papers.
One of the men arrested was wanted by the Moroccan authorities in connection with the May 2003 bomb attacks in Casablanca, which left 45 people dead, the statement continued.
The police said they had also seized suspicious documents during the raids on Friday.
They added that the men taken into custody could well have links with Khalid B, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was recently arrested in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on Friday rejected claims made in the Spanish press that the 11 March terror attacks in Madrid may have bee partly organised in Brussels.
Spanish newspaper ‘El Periodico’ made the claims on Thursday, citing Moroccan intelligence sources.
But in a statement issued on Friday, Verhofstadt firmly denied the allegations.
“The Spanish and Moroccan authorities have confirmed to us that this article was not correct. At present there is nothing to suggest a link between Brussels or Belgium and the 11 March attacks in Madrid,” he said.
Verhofstadt’s comments came as EU interior ministers gathered for emergency talks in Brussels to discuss Europe’s strategy for fighting terrorism.
The talks are designed to pave the way for next week’s meeting of EU leaders, which also takes place in Brussels and looks set to be dominated by terrorism-related questions.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news