Brussels attacks: IS changed plans after Abdeslam held

An Iraqi intelligence official says sources in the Syrian city of Raqqa have told them that the Islamic State group has been planning terrorist attacks in Europe for two months which would “target airports and train stations”.

Brussels attacks: IS changed plans after Abdeslam held

The official said Iraqi officials had told European countries about the plans “but Brussels was not part of the plans” at the time.

He says IS militants changed the operation and moved it to Brussels “because of the detention of Salah Abdeslam” — the Paris attacks suspect arrested last week in Brussels.

Another senior Iraqi intelligence official said “Daesh [IS] was behind this operation and it was planned in Raqqa two months ago and there are three suicide attackers who will carry out another attack”.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the investigation was ongoing.

Intelligence officers described the attacks as “sadly expected” both as a “revenge” for the arrest of Europe’s most wanted man but also because jihadists were aware he could betray them.

Intelligence officers said they would have been concerned as Abdeslam twice “pulled back” from killing himself by triggering a suicide vest — once in Paris and then on the day of his arrest.

“This showed a weakness, a desire to live which would have been played on during questioning,” said an anti-terror specialist quoted by the Daily Mail.

“He was not a man showing inner strength and the capacity to withstand interrogation, this meant that if those involved in today’s attacks were known to him they believed they had to activate their plans before they too were arrested and their weapons seized.”

Abdeslam is being held in a Belgian high-security prison, with France seeking his extradition so he can stand trial for his alleged role in the attacks that killed 130 people.

The 26-year-old Frenchman was arrested Friday after being run to ground by investigators in the same gritty Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels where he grew up. Much remains unclear about Abdeslam’s movements in the four months he managed to elude authorities multiple times.

“We’re still far from completing the puzzle,” Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw acknowledged.

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