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France

Belgian with 'direct links' to Paris attackers arrested in Morocco

media A Belgian man of Moroccan descent was arrested in Morocco for his links with some of those behind the November 13 attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Morocco said on Monday that it had arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent who it said was directly linked with some of those behind the jihadist attacks in Paris in November.

In a statement, the interior ministry said that the suspect, arrested on Friday in the town of Al-Muhammadiyah near Casablanca, had “direct links with some” of the Paris attackers and had travelled to Syria where he joined the Islamic State group.

Last week, French authorities had identified a suicide bomber who blew himself up during a police raid in Saint-Denis following November's Paris attacks as 25-year-old Belgian-Moroccan Chakib Akrouh.

He was identified from DNA matched to his mother and suspected of being one of the gunmen in the massacre five days before his death.

Akrouh had been holed up in an apartment in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, with the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abelhamid Abaaoud, who was also a Belgian of Moroccan origin.

“The suicide bomber who blew himself up ... was identified as Chakib Akrouh, born on 27 August 1990 in Belgium, of Belgian Moroccan nationality,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said in a statement.

Akrouh had been holed up in an apartment in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, with the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abelhamid Abaaoud, who was also a Belgian of Moroccan origin.

A French woman, Hasna Aitboulahcen, who is thought to have been Abaaoud's cousin and may have been in a relationship with him, was also there at dawn on November 18, five days after the attacks, when police tried to storm the building.

All three died after Akrouh detonated the suicide vest and police rained heavy gunfire on the building.

Investigators now believe Akrouh was also one of the 13 November gunmen.

A court in Belgium sentenced Akrouh to five years in jail in absentia last July in a case linked to a jihadist recruitment network sending fighters to Syria.

Abaaoud was sentenced to 20 years in the same case, also in absentia.
Investigators are still seeking Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman living in Belgium who is thought to have hired the cars used by the attackers and booked accommodation for them.

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