A ninth man has been detained in Belgium in connection with the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 13, which killed 130 people. The man, identified only as Abdoullah C., is now facing charges of “terrorist murders and participation in the activities of a terrorist organization." He was detained on Tuesday just outside Brussels' Molenbeek neighborhood, where many of the attackers lived, according to The New York Times. Officials explained that they did not immediately announce the arrest in order to avoid tipping off possible accomplices.
The Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Thursday that Abdoullah C., a Belgian national born in 1985, is “suspected to have had several contacts” with Hasna Aitboulahcen. Aitboulahcen was the cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian suspected of having been the chief planner of the Paris attacks. Aitboulahcen and Abaaoud were both killed — along with another man — during a police raid on Nov. 18 in St. Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. The prosecutor's office indicated that Abdoullah C. had telephoned Aitboulahcen several times in the timeframe between the Paris attacks and the raids that resulted in the latter's death.
The New York Times reported that there was supposed to be a pretrial hearing on Thursday to decide whether or not Abdoullah C. should continue to be detained, but the hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 7 when his lawyers requested more time to prepare their case.
Belgian links to the Paris terror attacks have shocked the country and resulted in a visible increase in security. Armed police and soldiers have been patrolling the streets in Brussels, and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced overhauls on Tuesday of the country's military and police. These overhauls include a restructuring of the national police force to send 2,500 additional officers into the field to focus on terrorism and major crimes.
In his annual Christmas message, which was originally delivered in French, King Philippe of Belgium — who is a constitutional monarch — commented on the ways in which Belgium continues to be affected by the November attacks and went on to make a plea for tolerance.
The recent events proved how important it is to invest in justice, the police, the army and intelligence services. ... It seems important to me to return to the foundation of our society, to what we most wish to hold on to: our values and the rules of coexistence. This implies that we teach our children to respect different religions and philosophical convictions. What they all share is the desire to give meaning to life, to respect others and to be open toward them. Respecting these common rules also implies zero tolerance toward hate speech. It means fighting, day after day, all forms of stigmatization and segregation, and helping people who are drawn to fanatical indoctrination to resist.
The king's remarks follow on the heels of an increase in global anti-refugee sentiment and Islamophobia, exemplified by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from traveling to the U.S.
Eight other people are currently facing criminal charges in Belgium in connection with the Paris terror attacks. Additionally, a manhunt continues for Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have been the only direct participant in the attacks who is still alive.