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Man who lent flat to Paris attacker goes before judge

AFP | French security forces after a raid on the apartment where suspected attackers were holed up

The man who loaned his Paris suburb apartment to the suspected organiser of the attacks on the city and accomplices but claimed not to know they were terrorists, was sent before a French judge on Tuesday.

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Jawad Bendaoud, who sparked a flurry of mocking social media memes in France for an interview he gave protesting his innocence as the police assault on the apartment in Saint-Denis was ongoing, was arrested soon afterwards.

Police targeted the apartment in northern Paris while hunting the attacks' suspected coordinator Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Abaaoud was killed during the police raid, along with a woman thought to be his cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, and another as yet unidentified man.

Bendaoud, whose detention was extended until Tuesday, could face formal charges.

Police were tipped off to his possible involvement when they saw a man who resembled him talking with Aitboulahcen the night before the raid.

The meeting between the two, police said, could have been to negotiate payment for the apartment's lease to the jihadists.

‘I didn’t know they were terrorists’

Aitboulahcen later picked up Abaaoud and another man from where they were believed to be hiding in the north of Paris.

Shortly before his arrest, Bendaoud told AFP he had loaned his apartment to two people from Belgium as a favour to a friend.

"A friend asked me to put up two of his friends for a few days," he said.

"I said that there was no mattress, they told me 'it's not a problem', they just wanted water and to pray," Bendaoud said before being handcuffed and led away by police. "I was asked to do a favour, I did a favour. I didn't know they were terrorists."

He said his friend told him the men came from Belgium, where according to investigators several of the jihadists were known to have lived.

Raids across Belgium

Belgian authorities have put their capital under the highest terrorism alert and are leading a manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian with Moroccan roots, who is suspected of being directly involved in the Paris attacks.

Belgium detained 21 people following raids (15 of whom were subsequently released) on Sunday evening and Monday morning in the Brussels, Liege and Charleroi regions in its search for Abdelslam, who remains at large.

A sum of EU26,000 was seized during one of the searches. All other items seized during house searches are being examined, the prosecutors said.

On Monday evening a street cleaner in the Paris suburb of Montrouge found what appeared to be a suicide vest similar to those used by the November 13 attackers, leading police to suspect the device had either not detonated or that the wearer had decided to flee.

Police said a call from a mobile phone used by Abdelslam had been traced to the same area.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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