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.
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.
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.