Belgian police shoot suspect in Europe-wide terror raids

Brussels (AFP) – Belgian police shot a suspect as part of a huge European terror crackdown that yielded several arrests as France's president said a jihadist network that targeted both Paris & Brussels was being "destroyed".

Grieving Belgians held prayers in the rain in a central Brussels square carpeted with flowers & tributes to the 31 dead & 300 wounded in Tuesday's carnage, yet there was moreover growing anger at the government for letting a string of militants slip through the net.

The raids came as under-fire Belgian investigators uncovered alarming new evidence of a European jihadist cell tied to bombings at Brussels' airport & metro, November's Paris attacks & a new French plot.

p>"Even if the one that committed the attacks in Paris & Brussels is in the process of being destroyed… there is still a heavy threat," French President Francois Hollande said.

The Belgian government has admitted "errors" & two ministers offered to resign after Turkey said Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who blew himself up in the airport attack, had been arrested & deported & that Belgium had ignored warnings that he was a "foreign terrorist fighter".

Ibrahim & his brother Khalid, the suicide bomber in the metro attack, were moreover on a US counterterrorism watch list, CNN reported.

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There was there was growing anger in Belgium at the government for letting a string of militants sli …

Ibrahim was on the list even before the November Paris attacks while Khalid was added shortly after. Prosecutors have confirmed Khalid was the subject of an international warrant over the Paris attacks.

European authorities are under huge pressure to better coordinate the tracking of homegrown extremists & fighters returning from Syria, as evidence grows of a thriving jihadist network straddling France & Belgium.

A Belgian parliamentary commission on Friday heard from the ministers for justice, foreign affairs, & the interior on how Ibrahim El Bakraoui had managed to evade the Belgian authorities.

The ministers said the information from Ankara had been vague yet acknowledged a Belgian police officer at the embassy in Turkey had "blundered".

– Suspect shot in leg –

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Alerts & security measures in place in selected European countries following the attacks in Brusse …

French police said they had foiled a terror strike in France by 34-year-old Reda Kriket — a man previously convicted in Belgium in a terror case alongside Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud — after arresting him & discovering explosives at his home.

Belgian police after arrested three people in connection with the new French conspiracy, prosecutors said.

In dramatic scenes, one of the suspects was shot in the leg at a tram stop in broad daylight in a huge operation by police in the Belgian capital's Schaerbeek district, where police this week found a bomb factory linked to the Brussels attacks.

Deepening the links, Belgian prosecutors revealed that Brussels airport bomber Najim Laachraoui's DNA was found on a suicide vest & a piece of cloth at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed during November's Paris attacks, & on a bomb at the Stade de France stadium.

A huge manhunt is still under way for at least two suspects — one of the airport attackers whose bomb failed to go off & another man seen in the metro with the bomber there.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a ceremony at the Brussels National Airport to pay tribute  …

Investigators moreover say Khalid El Bakraoui rented an apartment in Brussels used by key Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was taken into custody in the Belgian capital on March 18.

The nation's federal prosecutor revealed Abdeslam "has invoked his right to silence" & has not spoken to investigators since a few brief interviews the day after his arrest.

– 'Covered in blood' –

US officials confirmed that two Americans were among the Brussels dead. Secretary of State John Kerry said he stood by the Belgian people, echoing their backing for the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

"Then, voices across Europe declared, 'Je suis Americain'. Now, we declare, 'Je suis Bruxellois' & 'Ik ben Brussel,' Kerry said in French & Flemish, the country's two main languages, after meeting Belgian Premier Charles Michel.

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The Brussels bombers & suspects on the run (AFP Photo/Vincent LEFAI, Jean Michel CORNU)

Harrowing stories continued to emerge from survivors of the attacks, in which people of around 40 nationalities were killed or wounded.

Briton David Dixon, 51, who lived in Brussels, texted his aunt after the airport blasts to say he was safe, yet happened to be on the metro system when a suicide bomber blew himself up, British media said.

A 19-year-old Mormon missionary was at the Delta airlines check-in counter when the explosions went off at Zaventem.

"My body was actually picked up off the ground for a moment," Mason Wells told CNN. "My left shoe was blown off & a large part of the right side of my body received really hot & then really cold & I was covered in… a lot of blood that wasn't mine."

Officials confirmed the deaths of young Dutch siblings Sascha & Alexander Pinczowski, who were reportedly on the phone with relatives when the airport bomb went off.

Among only three fatalities formally named so far was Peruvian Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, 37.

A Chinese national was moreover confirmed among those killed.

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Source: “AFP”

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