PARIS (AP) — The Islamic State fighters who carried out the attacks in Brussels honed their skills through combat in Syria, and the sibling suicide bombers were also crucial to planning the Paris attacks, according to the extremist group’s magazine released Wednesday.
In the English-language magazine Dabiq, the group drew a direct line between the two attacks — and made no mention of the key suspects captured in Belgium. “All preparations for the raids in Paris and Brussels started with” brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El-Bakraoui, the group said.
Brussels was home to many of the attackers who struck the French capital Nov. 13 with suicide bombings and volleys of assault weapons fire that left 130 people dead. According to Belgian and French investigators, the same cell was behind the suicide bombings that killed 32 people in Brussels on March 22.
The younger El Bakraoui blew himself up in a rush-hour Brussels subway train, killing 16 victims. That same morning, his older brother was one of two suicide bombers who detonated explosives-laden suitcases at Brussels Airport, killing another 16. The other airport bomber was Najim Laachraoui, the bomb maker for both the Brussels and the Paris attacks, who left for Syria in 2013 and was an early recruit for the Islamic State group.
It is “firstly due” to the El Bakraouis that the attacks in the French capital occurred, Dabiq said. Subsequently, it said, Khalid El Bakraoui had a dream to carry out another attack.
The magazine also prominently mentioned Mohamed Belkaid, the IS fighter who was killed covering Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam’s escape from a hideout “during the final stages of preparation for the raid in Brussels.” It said Belkaid, who had Swedish residency, took part in some of the extremist group’s most important battles, including the capture of Ramadi, and decided to return to Europe with Laachraoui for an attack.
Although it was light on new details, the magazine article offered a glimpse of how the attack cell was constructed and how the plot formed among supporters in Belgium and Syria.
Abdeslam, who returned from France to Belgium after his brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks, is entirely absent from the narrative, as is Mohamed Abrini and Osama Krayem. All three were captured in the Brussels area — Abdeslam just a few blocks from the Molenbeek home where he grew up.
A Belgian television network on Wednesday released previously unknown footage from Molenbeek of Abdeslam, whose role in the Paris attacks has never been defined and who is not formally linked to the Brussels bloodshed.
In the August 2014 clip from tvbrussels, Abdeslam is seen strolling through an open air market, talking to an unseen companion. Filip De Rycke, the station’s news director, said the footage emerged by happenstance, while an editor was searching for archival material on the neighborhood, which is known as fertile recruiting ground for IS.
Abdeslam’s companion could not be identified and was hidden for that reason and “in the interest of the investigation,” he said.
Belgian and French authorities have detained dozens of people in the investigation into the two attacks, but many have been freed quickly. Three people taken into custody during a police search in the Brussels district of Uccle on Tuesday were freed Wednesday, and Belgian authorities have not said what they were looking for, or what they may have found.
Separately Wednesday, the management of the concert hall targeted in the Paris attacks said it is preparing to reopen and has scheduled a set of new concerts toward the end of the year.
The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris were the second major strike against the city in 2015. In January, two attackers killed 11 people at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo while another man launched a deadly assault on a kosher supermarket and killed a French policewoman.
Amedy Coulibaly, who carried out the latter attack, appeared in a posthumous video pledging allegiance to IS.
A Frenchman suspected of supplying weapons to Coulibaly, was arrested Tuesday with two other men in the southern Spanish beach town of Rincon de la Victoria on a European arrest warrant.
A police raid on Antoine Denive’s house uncovered several false documents used by the 27-year-old, including a valid European passport in another person’s name, according to a statement from Spain’s Interior Ministry.
Police said they were also studying computer material found there. A Serbian man and a Montenegrin man also allegedly tied to arms trafficking were also arrested.
The ministry said Denive left France several weeks after the January 2015 attacks and moved to the southern Spanish province of Malaga, where he allegedly continued illegal activity under a false identity. It said he was an arms trafficker with ties to Serbian arms traffickers. The arrest was coordinated by a court in Lille, France, and one in the Spanish city of Torremolinos.
In court Wednesday, Denive denied selling weapons to attackers.
Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Raphael Satter in Paris and Alan Clendenning and Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.
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