CLOSING IN

Terrorists were planning a second Paris attack but were forced to hit Brussels instead

The group behind the Brussels attacks on Mar. 22 that killed 32 people had only targeted the city because of fears that a plan to launch a second attack in Paris was in jeopardy, French and Belgian prosecutors said today (Apr. 10).

The attackers changed plans because law enforcement was closing in on them, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said. The group switched targets to Brussels four days before carrying out the attacks, after a key member of the group was arrested for his suspected role in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). “Surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation, they urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels,” the Belgian prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Prosecutors now believe that the attackers are part of the same group that carried out attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead. ISIL has claimed responsibility for both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Attackers were targeting La Défense, a business district of highrise offices and shopping malls to the west of Paris, and an unidentified Catholic association, before changing their plans, according to the New York Times (paywall), who cited an unnamed former intelligence officer.

On Friday (Apr. 8) police detained the last two men wanted in connection with the Brussels attacks. Mohamed Abrini confessed to being the “man in the hat” captured by security cameras at Brussels airport before the attacks.

All suspects in the Brussels attacks are now either detained or dead. Belgium remains on high alert. It has left its threat level at Level 3, its second-highest level, its prime minister Charles Michel said today (Apr. 10).

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