124 people charged over Paris attacks

Italy confirms fugitive travelled through country en route to France
124 people charged over Paris attacks

A total of 124 people have been charged over last week’s terrorist attacks on Paris, including Jawad Bendaoud, who has been linked to the attackers’ base in a Paris suburb.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said more than 1,230 searches were carried out, and 230 arms recovered.

He provided no details about the charges for the 124 people.

It is the first time that authorities have announced charges since the attacks on November 13 that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.

The news came as Italy’s interior minister confirmed that a fugitive from the attacks travelled through Italy in August.

Italian news media had reported that Salah Abdeslam, the object of an international manhunt, and another suspected Islamic State militant had travelled through the country on August 1, catching a ferry from the southern port of Bari to Greece.

Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said that “when they made the crossing they were free citizens, not sought-after terrorists”.

News reports indicate that Abdeslam and Ahmad Dahmani returned to Bari from Greece on August 5, travelling through Italy by car before crossing the border to France the next day.

Dahmani was detained in a luxury hotel in Turkey over the weekend.

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

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 on November 18, and three people were killed, including suspected attacks orchestrator Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a female cousin and one other.

Bendaoud acknowledged in a television interview giving shelter to two people from Belgium but said he did not know who they were or what they planned.

Bendaoud, 29, told BFM television: “I didn’t know they were terrorists. I was asked to do a favour. I did a favour, sir.”

Four people have been handed terrorism charges in Belgium since the Paris attacks, which have been traced to a network of people with ties to both France and Belgium.

Brussels remained at its highest alert level, after Belgian prime minister Charles Michel cited a “serious and imminent threat” to the city, which houses the headquarters of the European Union and Nato.

Belgium’s crisis centre said the alert level would only change if a significant breakthrough warranted it.

Many questions remain unanswered as investigators try to piece together what happened in Paris on the night of November 13 and who might still be at large.

Only one fugitive has been publicly named: Abdeslam, who crossed into Belgium the morning after the attacks.

A street cleaner in a Paris suburb found an explosive vest on Monday near the place where Abdeslam’s mobile phone was found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Authorities said that the device, which did not have a detonator, was found in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.

A police official said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the attacks.

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