Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Belgium charges al-Qaeda suspects

European Council building in Brussels
Police do not know if the EU summit was to be the target of an attack

Belgium's authorities have charged six people suspected of links to al-Qaeda with membership of a terrorist group.

The suspects, five men and a woman, were held in raids in Brussels and Liege on Thursday - just hours before the start of an EU summit in Brussels.

Police say they believe one of those charged was planning a suicide attack.

There is no information on the target or location, but - with the EU summit under way - officials say they would take no chances, correspondents say.

On Friday, a judge decided there was insufficient evidence to hold eight other people held in Thursday's raids.

'No choice'

Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, said arrest warrants had been issued for the six suspects.

He [the alleged suicide attacker] had said goodbye to his loved ones, because he wanted to enter paradise with a clear conscience
Federal Prosecutor Johan Delmulle

Ms Pellens identified one of the suspects as Malika el-Aroud. The suspect's first husband, Abdessatar Dahmane, died in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in September 2001 that killed the leader of the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud.

The names of the five male suspects - including the alleged plotter of the suicide attack - have not been released.

The man had "received the green light to carry out an operation from which he was not expected to come back", Federal Prosecutor Johan Delmulle quoted investigators as saying on Thursday.

"He had said goodbye to his loved ones, because he wanted to enter paradise with a clear conscience," Mr Delmulle added.

"This information, linked to the fact that the EU summit is being held in Belgium at the moment, left us with no choice but to intervene."

The prosecutor added that the suspects could have been targeting Pakistan or Afghanistan, "but it can't be ruled out that Belgium or Europe could have been the target".

Nearly 250 police officers carried out 16 raids on Thursday. Computers and data storage equipment were also seized.

All six suspects are expected to appear in a Brussels court within five days.

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