Mon, 26 Aug 2019

Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks, has been formally charged in connection with the Brussels suicide bombings months later, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

Abdeslam was charged with "participating in the activities of a terrorist group", the federal prosecutor's office told AFP, confirming reports in the Belgian media in recent days.

The prosecutor's office did not give details of his alleged role in the suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station on March 22, 2016, which killed 32 people and wounded 340 others.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks which occurred within an hour of each other.

Investigators say the attacks were ordered from Syria and organised by a French-Belgian cell in Brussels, which was also behind the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.

In April, a Belgian court sentenced Abdeslam to 20 years in prison over a gun battle with police in Brussels that led to his capture days before the Brussels suicide bombings.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national who hails from the Brussels Molenbeek neighbourhood, is being held in jail in France pending a separate trial over the Paris attacks.

Main defendants

Abdeslam is alleged to have dropped off three suicide bombers at a Paris sports stadium the evening of the November attacks before abandoning a suicide belt he was apparently going to detonate.

Before Abdeslam's indictment was confirmed in the Belgian capital, 12 people had been charged in connection with the Brussels bombings.

The defendants are due to be tried next year in the former Nato headquarters in the Belgian capital, which sources said could begin in the autumn of 2020 and last up to eight months.

Among the main defendants are Mohamed Abrini and Osama Krayem, who were arrested in April 2016.

Investigators say Abrini did not set off his suitcase bomb at Zaventem airport with the other two suicide bombers and was captured days later.

Abrini was filmed at a service station en route to Paris just before the November 2015 attacks which were also claimed by Islamic State. Salah Abdeslam was seen with Abrini at the station.

Krayem was seen next to the suicide bomber at the metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels moments before the blast.

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