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Catalonia terror suspects visited Paris region days before attacks

© Thomas Samson / AFP | French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb arrives with Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido Alvarez, at the French Gendarmerie headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside of Paris on August 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-08-24

French investigators are trying to figure out why some of the suspects behind last week's attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils came to the Paris region five days earlier. They are examining possible links to French or Belgian terrorist networks.

Some of the Spain terror suspects spent a night in France a week before the fatal attacks in and near Barcelona, French authorities said Wednesday, as police in Spain revealed they found a real suicide bomb belt in the house where the attackers tried to make explosives.

An Audi A3 car that was observed in France between August 11 and August 12 is the same one involved in the attack carried out in the seaside town of Cambrils in the early hours of August 18, anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said.

"We are still trying to establish why they were in the Paris area," French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters at a joint news conference in Paris with his Spanish counterpart on Wednesday.

“We know that one of the cars used (in the attack) came from the Paris region,” Collomb added without further elaborating.

Separately, a French police official with knowledge of the investigation said several men who arrived in the Audi stayed at a hotel in the southern Paris suburb of Malakoff, visited a shopping center and bought a camera before leaving.

Video: France, Spain vow to strengthen cooperation in fight against terror

Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said France and Spain would continue to reinforce border checks and step up information exchanges, including of passenger information in real time.

The two officials signed an agreement to establish joint training for gendarmes from both countries.

Zoido also stressed the need for strengthening international anti-terrorism cooperation to prevent future attacks as the Spain investigation focuses on possible links the homegrown cell may have established overseas. Most of its members are from Morocco or of Moroccan descent.

Moroccan authorities have arrested at least one man in connection to the probe, according to the private news agency Europa Press.

Abdelbaki Es Satty, the imam who was killed in the house explosion and allegedly masterminded the attacks, spent three months in early 2016 in the Belgian city of Vilvoorde, which is known for Islamic State recruiting and jihadi activity. The mayor of Vilvoorde, Hans Bonte, said the police there contacted Catalan authorities at the time and were told Es Satty had no links to extremist violence.

Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said Wednesday it had opened a case file to establish whether and under what circumstances Es Satty stayed in the country.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)

Date created : 2017-08-23

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