Brussels bombers 'initially planned to target France'

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Brussels bombers 'initially planned to target France'

The terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again

  • Initial plan was to attack France
  • Changed to Brussels when police closed in
  • Mohammed Abrini and three others charged with terrorism offences

The news

The bombers who attacked Belgium last month had initially been planning to target France.

Belgian prosecutors say the surviving suspect from the Brussels bombings has told them the group wanted to attack France for the second time in four months.

They say Mohammed Abrini, who was arrested last Friday, says the arrest of suspect Salah Abdeslam four days before prompted them to act.

They opted to strike closer to home as key members of the group began to be arrested.

The attackers decided to hit targets nearby when investigators began to close in on them.

Abdeslam, suspected of being involved in the Paris attacks, was arrested the Friday before the Brussels bombings.

“Surprised by the speed of progress in the investigation, they took the decision to strike in Brussels,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

Officials say Abrini has admitted being the man in the hat seen on CCTV at Brussels airport and in the city after the bombings on March 22.

He and three other men were charged with terrorist offences on Saturday.

The Belgian connection

Investigations into the November 13 attacks in Paris showed many of the attackers lived in Belgium.

Key suspects Salah Abdeslam and Mohammed Abrini remained in Brussels for four months after the shootings and bombings, which killed 130 people and injured scores more.

A further 32 died and many more were injured in the airport and metro attacks in Brussels on March 22.

What they are saying

“Numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again.” – statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor.