The trial of 20 men accused in the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 has opened in Paris, with more than half of the accused having a Belgian connection.
The terror onslaught began with an attack on the Stade de France during a football match. Later in the evening, suicide bombs were detonated in the centre of the city, culminating in the deadliest of all, at the Bataclan concert hall.
In all, 130 people were murdered, and 350 were wounded.
The chief surviving suspect is Salah Abdeslam (aged 31), who despite having French nationality was born and raised in Molenbeek in Brussels. He was due to blow himself up at the Stade de France, but claims either than he could not enter, or that his bomb did not work.
He was eventually arrested in Molenbeek in March 2016 after a gunfight with police. Abdeslam was in prison at the time of the attacks of 22 March 2016 in Zaventem and Brussels, but he remains an accused in the preparation of those attacks.
He has been delivered to the French authorities in connection with this trial, but has in the meantime been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for his part in the gunfight of March 2016.
Mohamed Abrini was named ‘the man with the hat’ when he was tracked by CCTV leaving Brussels Airport moments after the explosions there on 22 March. He walked, under almost constant surveillance, from the airport into Schaerbeek, when he was lost from sight. Nonetheless, he was arrested soon after. He is suspected of helping plan and finance the Paris attacks, as well as transporting terrorists from Brussels.
Yassine Atar from Laeken is accused of being part of the terrorist cell, keeper of the keys to the safe house where Abdeslam hid out between November 2015 and his arrest.
Mohamed Amri, a Moroccan living in Molenbeek, was a friend of the Abdeslam brothers and arranged for the rental car that brought Abdeslam back from Paris to Brussels
Hamza Attou has been at liberty until now, charged with arranging transport for the Belgian wing of the attacks back to Brussels.
Ali Oulkadi is in the same situation, accused of providing transport, shelter and money to Abdeslam in Laeken and Molenbeek.
Ali El Haddad Asufi from Schaerbeek is accused of obtaining weapons for the attackers. He is currently in prison in France, and will also face charges in the case of the attacks in Brussels when that trial starts, probably next year.
Ahmed Dahmani, a Belgian Moroccan from Molenbeek, will not be present at the Paris trial, as he is serving a ten-year sentence in Turkey while trying to flee to Syria.
Abdellah Chouaa is yet another driver for the gang, the son of a Molenbeek imam. He is currently free on parole.
Mohammed Bakkali is part of a terrorist cell in Verviers that was broken up just days before the Brussels attacks. He organised transport and weapons, and has been in a cell since 2018.
Finally, Farid Kharkhach, born in Morocco and resident in Laeken, is accused of obtaining false papers to allow terrorists from Syria to come to Europe.
Source: The Brussels Times