Authorities in Belgium on Thursday announced the arrests of six men, while a court prolonged the detention of two others in connection with a plot to attack the capital, Brussels, on New Year’s Eve, reports The New York Times.
The six men were arrested after searches of seven houses in the Brussels area, amid growing scrutiny of a motorcycle club called the Kamikaze Riders. By Thursday evening, three of the six had been released after questioning, while the other three were being held for at least 24 more hours, according to the report.
“There are persons in the group who have been linked to Sharia4Belgium,” a radical Salafist organization that the Belgian government has designated as a terrorist group, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Brussels said.
The group’s Facebook page suggests that the members, all Muslims from the Brussels region, attend motor sports events, but it makes no mention of radicalization, extremism or violence, according to The New York Times.
However, one of the men, Said Abu Shahid, has a YouTube account with videos supporting the Islamic State (ISIS), noted the newspaper.
Belgium has been conducting raids on terror targets ever since the November 13 ISIS attacks in Paris, particularly in the Molenbeek district of Brussels where the terrorists are believed to have come from.
Belgium's security services were on the defensive after the attacks when they were accused of blunders, infighting and worrying leniency towards radicalism that let the perpetrators of the Paris attacks slip under the radar.
The November 13 terror attacks in Paris killed 130 people and wounded hundreds. The attackers, armed with assault rifles and explosives, attacked six locations across the city, targeting a stadium, a concert hall and restaurants and bars.
On Thursday, the authorities announced that they had charged a Belgian man as part of their investigation of the Paris terrorist attacks. He is one of nine who have been detained as part of that investigation, according to The New York Times.
The suspect, Ayoub Bazzarouj, a 22-year-old Belgian citizen, was arrested after the search of a house in Molenbeek, officials said.
Mr. Bazzarouj was arrested at the same house in Molenbeek, on Rue Delaunoy, where Salah Abdeslam, a fugitive and the only direct participant in the Paris attacks who is still believed to be alive, is thought to have hidden after the attacks.
Belgian police failed to locate Abdeslam in the raids after the Paris attacks, and it is believed he was successful in fleeing to Germany.
Previously, senior officials in Hungary said Abdeslam traveled to Budapest before the Paris attacks where he "recruited a team" from unregistered migrants passing through.