Belgium charges Abdeslam accomplice over 2016 Brussels bombings

AFP , Friday 1 Jun 2018

This file photo taken on February 8, 2018 shows alleged accomplice of the November 2015 Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, Sofiane Ayari (R), escorted by Belgian police officers as he arrives in a courtroom on the second day of the trial of Salah Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari at the "Palais de Justice" courthouse in Brussels. (AFP photo)

A Belgian judge has charged an accomplice of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam with a terror offence linked to the March 2016 Brussels suicide bombings, prosecutors said Friday.

Tunisian Sofiane Ayari, who along with Abdeslam was jailed in April for opening fire on police in Brussels days before the bombings, was charged late Thursday "with participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation," the federal prosecutor's office said.

It said an investigating judge charged Ayari, 24, "in connection with the investigation after the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Zaventem" on March 22, 2016, which left 32 people dead and wounded hundreds.

The Islamic State group claimed the bombings.

A Brussels court on April 23 sentenced Ayari and Abdeslam to 20 years in prison for trying to kill police officers during a gunbattle in Brussels that led to their capture.

Four police officers were wounded in the March 15 gun fight, four months after the November 2015 Paris attacks, and days before suicide bombings in Brussels as a wave of Islamic State-inspired terror swept Europe.

Abdeslam is the sole surviving suspect in the Paris attacks.

Ayari is being held in a Belgian prison.

Neither Abdeslam, 28, a Belgian-born French national, nor Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian citizen, was in court to hear the verdict in April.

Abdeslam is being held in jail in France pending a separate trial over the Paris attacks, claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, in which 130 people died.

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