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anti-terror raids

Mastermind of jihadist cell in Belgium 'still at large'

Meanwhile, arrests made in Greece yesterday are said to be unconnected to the cell.

Belgium Anti Terror Raid The scene of the shootout last week in Verviers is examined. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

THE SUSPECTED MASTERMIND of the jihadist cell dismantled in Belgium remains at large, a Belgian minister said Sunday, amid reports that he was in Greece.

Asked if the suspect remained on the run after four people were arrested in Athens on Saturday, Justice Minister Koen Geens told VRT television: “That is indeed the case.”

No link has been been established between at least four people arrested by Greek anti-terrorism police and the jihadist cell, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said today.

“There is no connection between these people and the enquiry” in Belgium, Eric Van Der Sypt, spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said.

A Greek police source said investigators had sent DNA evidence and fingerprints to Belgium to establish whether Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the 27-year-old suspected mastermind of the Belgian cell, was among the four suspects.

Belgian authorities say the group targeted in a police raid Thursday in the eastern town of Verviers, in which two suspects were killed, was plotting to kill Belgian police officers.

Foiled attacks

The federal prosecutor’s office has refused to comment on local media reports that Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, planned the foiled attacks from Greece or Turkey.

The reports say he made calls from Greece to the brother of one of the two suspects killed in the shootout with police in Verviers.

According to Belgian media, Abaaoud spent time fighting alongside the Islamic State group in Syria.

He was already known to security forces after appearing in an Islamic State video, at the wheel of a car transporting mutilated bodies to a mass grave.

He is also known as the older brother of a 13-year-old boy dubbed Syria’s youngest foreign fighter by British media after photos surfaced of him posing with weapons.

Thirteen people were arrested across Belgium in connection with the Verviers cell, five of whom were later charged with “participating in the activities of a terrorist group.”

Belgium Europe Terror A Belgian para-commando patrols near the office of the prime minister in Brussels,. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Weapons, bomb-making materials, police uniforms and fake documents were found during searches of their homes.

Two fugitives who left Belgium immediately after the attack have been arrested in France.

The Belgium raid came a week after Islamist attacks in and around Paris killed 17 people, rekindling fears in Europe about the threat posed by young Europeans returning home after fighting alongside extremist groups in the Middle East.

Belgium estimates that 335 of its people have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq in the last few years — making it the European country with the highest proportion of nationals enlisted with Middle Eastern jihadist groups.

© – AFP 2015

Read: Troops are being deployed on the streets of Belgium >

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