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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Spain attack suspects did not come to France just for shopping - prosecutor

Investigators are looking into whether the suspects behind the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks had links to France or Belgium

As the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils widened over Europe, the mayor of the Vilvoorde region in Belgium said imam Es Satty spent time in the Brussels suburb of Machelen -- next to the city's airport -- between January and March 2016. Dirk Waem / Belga / AFP
As the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils widened over Europe, the mayor of the Vilvoorde region in Belgium said imam Es Satty spent time in the Brussels suburb of Machelen -- next to the city's airport -- between January and March 2016. Dirk Waem / Belga / AFP

The investigation into the terrorist attacks in Catalonia are spreading out over Europe. The French prosecutor said on Wednesday that at least two members of an Islamist militant cell which killed 15 people in Spain last week had been in Paris prior to the attacks - and it was clearly not to merely indulge in some shopping..

Investigators are looking into whether the suspects behind the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks had links to France or Belgium and are examining their movements over recent weeks as they look for connections to possible cells elsewhere in Europe.

The car used in the attack in the seaside resort of Cambrils, south of Barcelona, was caught on camera speeding in the Paris region days earlier.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed that two or three of the suspects had been in Paris on August 11 and 12 and stayed in a hotel in the south of the city. French media have reported that at one point during the trip one of the militants bought a camera.

"Nobody can believe at this moment that this trip was carried out to buy a camera," Mr Molins said. "We have to find out what they had come to do in France."

He declined to give further details, but said the investigation in France was focusing on who the suspects had met, where they had been and what they had bought.

The Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said France and Spain would continue to reinforce border checks and step up the exchange of information, including real-time information on passengers.

One of the suspects has named an imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, as their ringleader. Es Satty died a day before the Barcelona attack when a house the group was using as a bomb factory blew up. Court officials in Spain's Valencia region said on Wednesday that Spain had issued an expulsion order against Es Satty after he served a four-year jail term for drug-trafficking but that this was annulled by a court in 2015 after Es Satty appealed.

The judge at the time overturned the expulsion order partly because Es Satty had employment roots in Spain which he said "shows his efforts to integrate in Spanish society."

In Belgium, the mayor of the Vilvorde region said Es Satty spent time in the Brussels suburb of Machelen -- next to the city's airport -- between January and March 2016.

Arrests in connection with the case have also been reported in in Morocco.

It also emerged that at least one of the suspects spent a night in Zurich last December for reasons not yet known. A Swiss federal police official declined to name which of the suspects was in Zurich or even to indicate whether he was one of those shot by the police in Catalonia or one of the four suspects in custody. said .

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