Europe

Verviers terror suspects jailed in Belgium

Police in Verviers. 15 Jan 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police who stormed the house in Verviers came under heavy fire from those inside

Four members of a so-called Islamic State cell dismantled in the Belgian town of Verviers last year have been jailed for between eight and 16 years.

Prosecutors said the men were in constant contact with IS in Syria through Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the leader of the attacks in Paris last November.

He was killed in a shootout in Paris days after the attacks in which 130 people were murdered.

The Verviers cell was planning an attack in Belgium, prosecutors said.

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"The cell in Verviers aimed for the bloodiest possible attacks using bombs and automatic weapons," Judge Pierre Hendrickx said.

"For Abaaoud and the Verviers cell, the airport at Zaventem constituted a target," he added.

The airport was eventually targeted in March by militants who were also connected to Abaaoud. Two men detonated suicide vests, killing 17 people.

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Marouane El Bali, Souhaib El Abdi and Mohamed Arshad were charged with forming a terror organisation and given 16 years. Omar Damache was jailed for eight years on the same charge.

The men had returned from fighting with IS in Syria and a cache of explosives and weapons was found in the building where they lived, prosecutors said.

Belgium-France terror attacks timeline

  • 7 Jan 2015: Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi murder 12 people in attack on Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo
  • 9 Jan 2015: Amedy Coulibaly kills four Jewish customers and workers at supermarket in Paris. A day earlier he had shot dead a policewoman in Montrouge
  • 15 Jan 2015: Belgian police storm suspected jihadist cell in Verviers, killing two people and arresting a third
  • 13 Nov 2015: Co-ordinated suicide bombings and shootings in Paris leave 130 people dead
  • 18 Nov 2015: Suspected ringleader of Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is among three people killed in raid on a flat in Paris suburb of Saint Denis
  • 22 March 2016: Two bombs at Brussels airport and another on the Brussels Metro kill 32 people

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Two other men, Sofiane Amghar and Khalid Ben Larbi - who were killed in the Verviers raid - had also travelled to Syria.

A total of 16 suspects were charged in connection with the raid last January, but nine remain on the run.

The raid came a week after jihadists attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people.