Belgian police shot a suspect as part of a huge European terror crackdown that yielded several arrests on Friday.
The raids came as under-fire Belgian investigators uncovered alarming new evidence of a European jihadist cell tied to bombings at Brussels’ airport and metro, November’s Paris attacks and a new French plot.
The Belgian government has admitted “errors” and two ministers offered to resign after Turkey said Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who blew himself up in the airport attack, had been arrested and deported and that Belgium had ignored warnings that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter”.
Ibrahim and his brother Khalid, the suicide bomber in the metro attack, were also on a US counterterrorism watch list, CNN reported.
Ibrahim was on the list even before the November Paris attacks while Khalid was added soon after. Prosecutors have confirmed Khalid was the subject of an international warrant over the Paris attacks.
European authorities are under huge pressure to better coordinate the tracking of homegrown extremists and fighters returning from Syria, as evidence grows of a thriving jihadist network straddling France and Belgium.
A Belgian parliamentary commission on Friday heard from the ministers for justice, foreign affairs, and the interior on how Ibrahim El Bakraoui had managed to evade the Belgian authorities.
The ministers said the information from Ankara had been vague but acknowledged a Belgian police officer at the embassy in Turkey had “blundered”.
Suspect shot in leg
French police said they had foiled a terror strike in France by 34-year-old Reda Kriket — a man previously convicted in Belgium in a terror case alongside Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud — after arresting him and discovering explosives at his home.
Belgian police later arrested three people in connection with the new French conspiracy, prosecutors said.
In dramatic scenes, one of the suspects was shot in the leg at a tram stop in broad daylight in a huge operation by police in the Belgian capital’s Schaerbeek district, where police this week found a bomb factory linked to the Brussels attacks.
Other links uncovered
Deepening the links, Belgian prosecutors revealed that Brussels airport bomber Najim Laachraoui’s DNA was found on a suicide vest and a piece of cloth at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed during November’s Paris attacks, and on a bomb at the Stade de France stadium.
A huge manhunt is still under way for at least two suspects — one of the airport attackers whose bomb failed to go off and another man seen in the metro with the bomber there.
Investigators also say Khalid El Bakraoui rented an apartment in Brussels used by key Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was taken into custody in the Belgian capital on March 18.
The nation’s federal prosecutor revealed Abdeslam “has invoked his right to silence” and has not spoken to investigators since a few brief interviews the day after his arrest.