Belgium approves extradition of Paris attacks suspects to France
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A Belgian court on Thursday approved the extradition of two suspects in the November 13 Paris attacks. But at least one of them is unlikely to leave soon since he is under investigation for the Brussels attacks.
A tribunal in Brussels ruled the European arrests warrants issued by France for Mohamed Abrini, and Mohamed Bakkali, 29, were enforceable, according to a statement released by the Belgian prosecutor’s office.
However, no additional information regarding the extradition procedures were provided.
Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian national of Moroccan descent, is linked to the deadly November 13 attacks in the French capital, after he was caught on CCTV at a gas station near the Belgian border with Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.
But Abrini is also linked to the March 22 Brussels bombings, which claimed 32 lives, and is widely believed to be “the man in the hat” captured by cameras at the Zaventem International Airport.
The fact that Abrini is wanted in investigations into the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people, as well as the Brussels bombings, has raised questions over the timeline of his extradition to France.
A spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutors' office told the AFP that "the carrying out of the (European arrest warrant) will certainly not be done immediately.” He added that Abrini could stand trial in Belgium before being handed over to France.
Abrini could even be questioned in Belgium by French investigators, the spokesman added.
Apartment linked to Paris and Brussels attacks
The second man, Bakkali, 29, is believed to have rented the apartment in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital where suicide vests used in the Paris attacks were assembled. It was also the apartment where Abdeslam was hiding at the time of his capture and arrest by Belgian police.
Abdeslam was extradited to France on April 27 and is currently facing trial for his involvement in the Paris attacks.
The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for both the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Caught on camera
A childhood friend of the Abdeslam and his brother, Brahim –- who blew himself up at a Paris eatery on November 13 -- Abrini was identified as a suspect shortly after the Paris attacks.
But Abrini’s role in the carnage in the French capital has always been murky. French authorities put out a bulletin for his arrest a day after the attacks, when he was spotted driving across the Belgium border with Abdeslam. But Abrini was not named as one of the three three-member teams who carried out the attacks in and around Paris.
His suspected role in the Brussels attacks however is better documented, with CCTV footage capturing him at the international airport shortly before the bombing and then walking to the heart of Brussels.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)