05:23 GMT +319 November 2019
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    A street name sign is pictured on a wall at the Rue du Fort street in Charleroi, Belgium on January 13, 2016.

    Paris Attacks: Police Investigation Reveals Wider Belgian Network

    © AFP 2019 / Virginie Lefour
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    The international manhunt following the November 13 attacks in Paris during which 130 died and hundreds were injured has revealed a terrorist network - which was originally thought to be centered on one location in Brussels - was much more widespread.

    The discovery of safe houses used by the attackers in Charleroi and Auvelais — both around 50km south of Brussels — has shown that the terror network in Belgium was much more widespread than originally thought. 

    Initial investigations saw the spotlight fall on the Brussels district of Molenbeek, but the discovery that the attackers has rented out three safe houses — including one in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels — for up to a year before the attacks is a sign of the sheer spread of the terror network.

    The Belgian prosecutor's office said Wednesday that the Paris attackers had discovered DNA traces and other evidence of the attackers in all three locations. Investigators found DNA traces of one of the attackers, Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself up in Paris on November 13.

    This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
    © AP Photo / Militant photo
    This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

    In the apartment in Charleroi, officers found mattresses and fingerprints of both Hadfi and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed after a siege in St Denis, near Paris, on November 18.

    Explosive Traces

    In the house in Auvelais, the fake identity used to rent the property was that of a person picked up in Budapest on September 9 by key suspect Salah Abdeslam, who is now the subject of an international manhunt.

    Prosecutors said that one of Abdeslam's fingerprints and traces of explosives were discovered during a search in December of an apartment in the Brussels suburb of Schaerbeek. 

    Investigators have also established that the Seat Leon car used in the Paris attacks stopped near the suspected safe houses in Charleroi and Auvelais. Another vehicle, a BMW rented by a suspect, stopped near all three locations.

    The discovery of the safe houses exposes further shortcomings in the intelligence services within Europe. It emerged this week that Abaaoud was able to cross from Europe by ferry and meet jihadists in the UK, despite having an international arrest warrant out on him. He was also able to travel between Europe and Syria on several occasions without being identified.


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