Suspect Quizzed in Paris, Suicide Vest Found

Suspect Quizzed in Paris, Suicide Vest Found
Suspect Quizzed in Paris, Suicide Vest Found

French authorities on Tuesday questioned a top suspect linked to attackers who terrorized Paris, while Belgium’s capital remained locked down under threat of a possible similar attack.

Jawad Bendaoud, the only person in France facing potential terrorism charges linked to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was handed over Tuesday morning to an anti-terrorism judge in Paris, according to a judicial official. Bendaoud was detained last week for providing lodging to the suspected mastermind of the attacks in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Police raided the apartment Nov. 18, and three people were killed - including suspected attacks orchestrator Abdelhamid Abaaoud, AP reported.

  Suicide Vest Found

A street cleaner in a Paris suburb found an explosive vest similar to those used in the Paris attacks on Monday near the place where a suspect’s mobile phone had been found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Police said an explosive vest—without a detonator—was found by a street cleaner in a pile of rubble in Chatillon-Montrouge, on the southern edge of Paris and a considerable distance from the sites of the attacks on the Right Bank of the Seine to the north. A police official later said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosives—TATP—as those used in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives and left hundreds wounded.

The device was found on Monday in the same area where a cellphone belonging to fugitive suspect Salah Abdeslam was located on the day of the Paris attacks but the vest has not been formally linked to him, said two police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation, AP reported.

Belgium-based terrorism expert Claude Moniquet, who has been in contact with both Belgian and French investigators since the attacks, laid out two possibilities: that Abdeslam became afraid of carrying out a suicide mission or, more likely he says, that he simply ditched a defective explosive vest.

Nervousness could have played a role in concocting a defective vest, but he said he doubted fear played a role for among IS followers, “it is rare not to go to the end.”

Moniquet said this was only theory since he had not yet spoken to investigators about the explosive vest find.

A manhunt is underway for Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim was among attackers who blew themselves up. He crossed the border into Belgium after the attacks, with French police stopping and interviewing him, before letting him go.

The increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital.

Belgian authorities have not announced any details of their investigation into potential attacks nor have they released information about four suspects who have been arrested and charged with terrorism-related offenses. These include one suspect who was arrested as part of a sweep that saw 21 people detained since Sunday night. Fifteen of those detainees have since been released.

Frank Foley, a terrorism expert and lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said it was difficult to know if the Belgian operations were justified because authorities have provided few details.

“The measures could even be counterproductive if they last too long,” he said.

“If these dramatic measures continue in Brussels, we will be doing the terrorists’ job for them. The government may be unintentionally contributing to the atmosphere of fear.”

French authorities issued a new appeal for help in identifying one of the three attackers who was killed in the assault near the national stadium. They posted a photo of the man on Twitter Sunday asking the public for information. Greek police confirmed the man posed as an asylum seeker before the carnage.

Two senior Greek law enforcement officials told AP that the man traveled with another attacker, identified as Ahmad Al Mohammad. Both men were rescued by the Greek coastguard while traveling from Turkey on a boat carrying nearly 200 migrants and refugees that sank before reaching Greece. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Last week, France extended for three months a state of emergency that allows police raids, searches and house arrest without permission from a judge.

On Saturday, it also extended a ban on demonstrations and other gatherings through Nov. 30, when a UN climate conference to be attended by more than 100 heads of state is scheduled to start.