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Belgian judge approves extradition of two Paris attacks suspects

Published 09/06/2016

Police officers guard the entrance as a car arrives at the federal court building in Brussels (AP)
Police officers guard the entrance as a car arrives at the federal court building in Brussels (AP)

A Belgian judge has ruled that two suspects in the November 13 Paris attacks can be extradited to France.

Belgian federal prosecutors said in a statement that the judge ruled European arrest warrants issued for Mohamed Abrini and Mohamed Bakkali by French judicial authorities are enforceable.

Bakkali, 29, is believed to have rented the Brussels apartment where suicide vests used in the attacks that killed 130 in Paris were assembled, and where fugitive suspect Salah Abdeslam hid out for a time before being captured by Belgian police.

The part Abrini, 31, is suspected of having played in the Paris carnage has always been unclear. French authorities put out a bulletin for his arrest soon after the November 13 attacks, when it emerged he had driven to Paris from Brussels with Abdeslam that week.

The French renewed the arrest bulletin for Abrini the day of the Brussels bombings, but he has not been named as one of the members of any of the three known teams of attackers at France's national stadium, the Bataclan concert hall, or the cafes and bars.

Before Thursday's hearing in the pretrial chamber of the Brussels Tribunal, Belgian prosecutors said they do not anticipate turning over Abrini to the French any time soon. They are still investigating him over the March 22 suicide bombings at Brussels Airport. He has acknowledged being the "man in the hat" filmed by security cameras there in the company of the two bombers.

A total of 32 victims died in the blasts at the airport and in a separate suicide attack soon afterwards in the Brussels subway.

The Brussels judge on Thursday ordered Abrini held in detention for another month in connection with the Brussels attacks, as well as five other suspects. Four other people arrested in Belgium for suspected links to the Paris attackers were also ordered kept in custody for an additional month.

"No additional information will be given regarding further proceedings," Belgian federal prosecutors said in their statement.

The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for the Paris and Brussels attacks. British officials have said Abrini is believed to have travelled to England last summer and met with Islamic radicals there, but have offered no further details.

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