2 suspected of plotting attacks in Brussels due in court

BRUSSELS -- The two men arrested in Belgium on suspicion of planning extremist attacks over the year-end holidays are due to go Thursday before a magistrate, who will decide whether to hold them for another month.

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On Wednesday, an official close to the investigation said both men belong to the same motorcycle club, the Kamikaze Riders. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as the case is still being investigated.

At least one other Kamikaze Riders member, Abdelouafi Eloussaki, was investigated in the past for possible links to Islamic radicalism, but his former lawyer said no connection was ever found, though Eloussaki's two brothers had gone to Syria, where one was killed in action and the other badly wounded.

Abdelouafi Eloussaki was killed in a 2013 traffic accident in Brussels after travelling to Turkey to fetch his wounded brother and bring him home, attorney Abderrahim Lahlali said. He said both of his client's brothers had links to Sharia4Belgium, a radical Salafist group that has been designated a terrorist organization by a Belgian judge, but that no such connection had ever been proven to Abdelouafi or the motorcycle club.

"This is a group of youngsters from different -- and that's important to know -- nationalities, and different beliefs," Lahlali said. He said the Kamikaze Riders, founded in 2003, may have as many as 100 members -- including bikers from Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Morocco as well as Belgium -- but that it's hard to know since they have no real organization, membership roll or leadership.

"They have barbecues, go riding, etc." Lahlali said. "It's not like a dangerous, closed group with a terrorist agenda."

In connection with the ongoing investigation, four other people were detained and questioned, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office said. Lahlali said the four were also Kamikaze Riders members, and called their release proof the club itself was not suspect.

"It's possible some members, some individuals, have a personal agenda, but not the bigger part of the group," the lawyer said. "They have no connection with Islamic State or another terrorist organization."

The arrested suspects, whose names have not been released by authorities, were detained following searches in Brussels and other areas of Belgium. Authorities said the police actions revealed the serious threat of attacks on police, soldiers and celebrated sites in Brussels.

Later Wednesday, Brussels city leaders are expected to decide if the traditional New Year's Eve fireworks show should proceed or be cancelled.



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