Belgium arrests 2 charged with preparing attack in France
BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian authorities formally arrested a married couple on Monday and accused them of preparing a bomb attack in France during a packed rally of an Iranian opposition group last weekend.
The federal prosecutor's office said Monday that the two, Belgian citizens of Iranian heritage in their 30s, were charged with "attempt at terrorist murder and preparing a terrorist crime" against an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, in the French town of Villepinte, which is close to Paris.
The office said investigators who detained the couple and searched their car found about half a kilogram (more than a pound) of TATP explosives and a detonator. A few grams (less than an ounce) of TATP can cause bodily damage. A half-kilogram would be enough to cause a sizeable explosion and, in a crowd of some 25,000, considerable bloodshed and widespread panic.
After their detention, police raided five homes over the weekend but did not elaborate on the results.
The federal prosecutor's office said that as well as the Belgian security services, the DGSI French internal intelligence service and German judicial authorities were instrumental "in avoiding a terror attack on French soil."
Prosecutors said three suspected accomplices were detained in France. An Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was detained in Germany.
As well as Iranian exiles, there were numerous American speakers, including Rudy Giuliani, U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer, at the event, which took place in a huge, packed hall in an exhibition center north of Paris.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, widely known as MEK, is an exiled Iranian opposition group detested by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which refers to them as "hypocrites." The formerly armed group had been on the EU and U.S. terrorism lists before being delisted from both. This year's rally, called "Free Iran 2018 — The Alternative" — sought to plant the seeds for regime change in Iran.
Trump's recent appointment of John Bolton, who has addressed a MEK rally in the past, as his national security adviser and the president's choice of Giuliani, a regular MEK headliner, as his lead lawyer are seen as ways to potentially strengthen the group's bid for U.S. backing.