Morocco arrests Belgian-Moroccan with 'direct links to Paris attacks'

Morocco arrests Belgian-Moroccan with 'direct links to Paris attacks'
A man who reportedly received military training in Syria and built relationships with IS, including the ringleader of the Paris attacks, has been arrested in Morocco, says the interior ministry.
2 min read
19 January, 2016
The town of Mohammedia where the suspect was arrested [AFP]
Moroccan police have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent with alleged links to the Paris attacks in November, the Moroccan interior ministry said on Monday.

The man had reportedly travelled to Syria with one of the Paris suicide bombers, where he is said to have received military training and built relationships with IS field commanders, including the ringleader of the Paris attacks, and others who threatened attacks in France and Belgium, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement identified the suspect only by the initials J.A., and didn't explain his alleged relationship to the Paris attackers - who killed 130 people in the French capital two months ago.

The Moroccan ministry said in a statement that the man was arrested on Friday in the town of Mohammedia, near Casablanca, after travelling through Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. It said the suspect remains under investigation.

Moroccan website le360 said he was arrested at the home of his mother, who was in Belgium at the time.

At least one of the Paris attackers remains at large.

'Moroccan FBI'

Morocco has emerged as a key ally for European investigators trying to piece together the geography of the 13 November attacks. The head of Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, dubbed the "Moroccan FBI", told AP in a recent interview that his country had put French and Belgian police onto the trail of the network behind the Paris attacks.

Several of the attackers lived in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, home to many immigrants of Moroccan descent.

Video: France holds memorial for Paris attacks victims

Last July, a Brussels court found 30 people guilty of involvement in an operation to recruit foreign fighters for Syria. Some were already in Syria when the trial took place.

Among them were Abdelhamid Abaaoud, ringleader of the 13 November Paris attacks, and Chakib Akrouh, a fellow resident of Molenbeek - identified last week as the suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the suburban Paris home, in which Abaaoud and his female cousin attempted in vain to hide out from police.

According to Van der Sypt, Attar was convicted in absentia of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group and sentenced to five years in prison.

Pieter Van Ostaeyen, who monitors the activities of Belgian "jihadis" and extremists, said 26-year-old Attar was also from Molenbeek, and that he left Belgium for Syria on 4 January, 2013, in the company of Akrouh.

He reportedly returned to Belgium that May, then travelled on to Morocco.

Despite being arrested there, he still managed to return to Syria, Van Ostaeyen said.