Brussels bombers’ plot ‘involved church services’

01 April 2016

AP

Sombre: an injured airport worker takes part in an ecumenical service for victims of the Brussels attacks, at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula, in Brussels, on Easter Monday 

Sombre: an injured airport worker takes part in an ecumenical service for victims of the Brussels attacks, at the Cathedral of St Michael and St...

TERRORISTS who attacked the airport and metro in Brussels last week had originally been intending to strike at churches during the Easter period, a European security expert, Claude Moniquet, has said.

Mr Moniquet, the CEO of the the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center and a veteran of French intelligence, said: “Intelligence agencies are increasingly confident that Tuesday’s attackers were supposed to be part of a synchronised strike and originally planned to hit their targets on Easter Monday.” The arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks, is said to have brought forward the attackers’ plans.

“The plot involved Christian church services, although not so much in Belgium but other countries.

“Of course there is the papal mass on Sunday at the Vatican, in Rome, and IS [Islamic State] view the Pope as the head of the Crusaders, but it could’ve easily been church services in France, Germany, or the UK,” Mr Moniquet said.

It was likely that “the wave of attacks would have begun on Good Friday in one country, and been repeated in others at staggered times through to Monday.”

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels hosted an interfaith service on Easter Monday to remember the victims of the attacks. Airport and emergency-service personnel carried trays of candles, and received applause from the congregation of more than1100 people.

Each of the 32 victims has now been identified, but Zaventem airport has yet to reopen fully. On Tuesday, a large-scale test was run to determine whether services could partially resume from Wednesday, but it was unsuccessful. The airport’s chief executive, Arnaud Feist, has warned that it could take months for it to be fully operational. The Metro is as normal, apart from Maelbeek station, also attacked.

The hunt continues for the “man in the hat” seen in CCTV footage next to the two suicide-bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, at the airport. Amid questions about whether enough was done to prevent the carnage, a Dutch minister said that the FBI had shared information with the Netherlands about El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid — the metro suicide-bomber — six days before the attacks.

A further raid took place in the southern port city early Wednesday, but no arrests were made.

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