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Isis cell in #BrusselsAttacks originally planned new attack on France

Members of the group had already been involved in November’s atrocity which left 130 people dead in Paris.

FILE. A security perimeter has been set, on 22 March, 2016 near Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Officials in Belgium say they now believe the Islamic State cell which attacked Brussels last month killing 32 people was originally planning a new attack on France.

Members of the group had already been involved in November's atrocity which left 130 people dead in Paris, but it's now thought they were planning a further attack.

Following the capture of the last remaining suspect in the Paris attacks and the man believed to be the surviving member of the group which bombed Brussels airport, new information is coming forward.

Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, is reported to have told Belgian prosecutors that originally the plan had been to launch a second attack in France rather than hit Belgium.

It's claimed that following the arrest of a fellow gang member and surprise by the speed at which police were closing in on them, the group had taken a hasty decision to hit Brussels.

Abrini, who was arrested on Friday is charged with terrorist activities.

*Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, Belgian, blew himself up on a metro train at Maelbeek station.

He was handed a five-year prison sentence for car-jacking in February 2011 but violated the terms of his parole last April when he was found with a former criminal associate. He was released again by the court because he met other parole conditions. He showed no signs of being radicalized then.

On the run since breaking parole again in October, he used fake ID to rent an apartment in Charleroi that was used as a safe house by some of the Paris attackers. As a result, he was put on international wanted lists in December. He also used fake ID to rent a flat in the Forest district of Brussels where on 15 March police found a fingerprint of Salah Abdeslam (see below) and shot dead gunman Mohamed Belkaid (see below).

He was seen before the Maelbeek attack with a second man (below) at Petillon, a suburban station on the same line, No. 5.

*Brahim El Bakraoui, 29, Belgian, blew himself up at Brussels airport. He was with two other men caught on CCTV at the airport. One of the others, Najim Laachraoui (below), also blew himself up and the third man is being hunted. On Friday, public broadcasters said the third man, being sought as "the man in the hat" was Mohamed Abrini (below), who had been arrested.

Bakraoui was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 for shooting at police during a robbery. He has been on the run since dropping out of the parole system on 19 May. Detained by Turkish police near the Syrian border, he was expelled in July to the Netherlands. Belgian ministers have blamed embassy staff for not relaying strongly or quickly a warning from Turkey.

*Najim Laachraoui, 25, Belgian, was the second suicide bomber at the airport, investigators confirmed on Friday.

Prosecutors said Laachraoui's DNA had been found on two explosive belts used by the Paris attackers. He left Brussels for Syria in February 2013 and broke off contact with his family. An engineering sciences student who dropped out of university, he is believed to have had the technical training that could mean he was the armorer of the operation.

Traveling under the false name Soufiane Kayal, he was documented traveling from Hungary into Austria in September in a car driven by Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris attacks who was captured in Brussels last Friday.

*Salah Abdeslam, 26, French, now in Bruges prison awaiting extradition to France, was Europe's most wanted fugitive until his capture 18 March in Brussels after a four-month manhunt.

Born and raised in Belgium to Moroccan-born parents, he told a magistrate he planned to blow himself up at a sports stadium in Paris on 13 November but backed out at the last minute. He has told investigators he arranged logistics for the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam said he wished to be extradited to France. Belgian investigators want to question him about the Brussels attacks.

*Brahim Abdeslam, 31, French, brother of Salah, blew himself up at a Paris cafe. He owned a bar that his brother Salah ran in their home district of Molenbeek in Brussels. Molenbeek was home to many of those suspected of ties to Islamic State. He was deported from Turkey, accused of trying to join militants. He was questioned on return but Belgian police found no reason to detain him.

* Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, Belgian, was killed by French police in a shootout in the Paris suburb of St. Denis on 18 November. Having fought in Syria as Abu Omar al-Beljiki (The Belgian) he avoided capture in a Belgian police raid in Verviers on 16 January, 2015, in which two fellow Belgians were killed.

He boasted of flitting between Syria and Europe and was believed to have promoted attacks including the 2014 shooting at Brussels' Jewish Museum and the Thalys train attack last August.

Abaaoud was sentenced to 20 years in prison in absentia in July last year, part of a case known as the Syrian Connection, in which some 30 suspects were handed jail sentences.

His father Omar accused him of kidnapping his younger brother Younes who at the age of 13 was vaunted as becoming the youngest foreign fighter in Syria.

*Khalid Zerkani, 42, Moroccan, headed a Brussels-based criminal ring recruiting prospective fighters to go to Syria, as well as to commit petty thefts to help finance Islamic State. He was jailed for 12 years in the Syrian Connection case.

*Reda Kriket, 34, French, was arrested in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil on 24 March and is suspected of belonging to a militant network planning an imminent attack in France. He was found as part of investigations into the Paris attacks. He had been sentenced in absentia to 10 years in Belgium last July for recruiting Islamist fighters for Syria in the Zerkani case.

*Mohamed Abrini, 31, Belgian, arrested in the Brussels district of Anderlecht on April 8, after being on the run for more than four months. He was seen on CCTV with Salah Abdeslam on 11 November at a motorway service station north of Paris in a car later used in the Paris attacks. Like the Abdeslam brothers, he grew up in Molenbeek.

Abrini and Abdeslam had also rented an apartment before the attacks in Paris which was used by some of the suicide attackers, prosecutors said.

His fingerprints were found at a flat used as a bomb factory from where the two Brussels airport suicide bombers and a third man took a taxi to the airport. He admitted to being the "man in a hat" seen with the bombers in the airport terminal before he abandoned a bomb and walked back into the city.

*Abdellah C., 35, Belgian national. Belgian broadcaster RTBF said he accompanied Mohamed Abrini at the airport when the latter may have gone to fight in Syria. His phone number was also found with a detainee at Belgium's Namur prison who was contacted by Salah Abdeslam on the day of the attacks in Paris. He was released on parole early on 8 April.

*Abderrahmane Ameuroud, 38, Algerian, shot and arrested in Brussels on 25 March and charged in the case of Reda Kriket. He was carrying a rucksack that police tested for evidence he was trying to make a biological weapon. The tests proved negative. A newspaper said he had a bag of animal testicles in excrement.

Ameroud was jailed in France in 2005 over the 2001 assassination of anti-Taliban Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud days before al-Qaeda's 11 September attacks.

*Osama Krayem, Swedish. Identified by Belgian prosecutors after his arrest in Brussels on 8 April as the fugitive using the fake Syrian passport of Naim Al Ahmed or Al Hamed. He was checked by German police near Ulm in October in a car rented by Salah Abdeslam and the man known as Amine Choukri (below).

Belgian prosecutors suspect him of being a man seen with Brussels metro bomber Khalid El Bakraoui shortly before he blew himself up and also of buying the bags used for the bombs. Local media say he and Choukri returned from Syria to Europe on a boat bringing refugees to the Greek island of Leros in September.

His family told the Swedish newspaper Expressen that Krayem suddenly disappeared from Sweden and when they contacted him, he said he had joined IS. His mother had tried to meet him in Turkey last year but was unable to do so, according to the Swedish broadcaster TV4.

*Mohamed Belkaid, 35, Algerian, was killed by police in the flat in Forest on 15 March. He was in Belgium illegally but was only known to police for petty crimes committed in 2014.

Using the fake identity of Samir Bouzid, he was documented in the car with Abdeslam and Laachraoui in Hungary in September. Also with Laachraoui, he was caught on CCTV on 17 November wiring cash to a cousin of Abaaoud who was to die the next day in the St. Denis shootout.

*Amine Choukri or Monir Ahmed Alaaj, both false identities, was arrested with Saleh Abdeslam, hiding with a family in a house in Molenbeek. Choukri was documented by German police near Ulm in a car with Abdeslam and Krayem in October.

Like Abdeslam, he was charged with "terrorist murder" over the Paris attacks. Investigators have told local media they believe Choukri, Belkaid and Saleh Abdeslam planned Paris-style shooting attacks at the same time as the Brussels bombings.

He is suspected of arriving with Krayem on Leros.

*Bilal El Makhoukhi. Arrested on 8 April for aiding Abrini and Osama K. He was convicted in January 2015 for being involved in Sharia4Belgium, a now disbanded organization that recruited people to go fight alongside jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Originally sentenced to five years in prison, with three years suspended, he was allowed to serve his remaining term at home under electronic monitoring and was released in March, Belgium's justice minister said.

El Makhoukhi returned wounded from fighting in Syria and had to have one leg amputated.

*Herve BM, 26, Rwandan. Arrested together with Osama Krayem on 8 April and suspected of aiding Krayem and Abrini.

*Mehdi Nemmouche, French, killed four people in an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May, 2014 after spending 2013 fighting in Syria. Caught in Marseille and extradited he is now in Bruges awaiting trial. It is generally seen as the first in the series of attacks in Europe linked to Islamic State.

Additional information by Reuters

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