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Briton admits giving money to Brussels, Paris attacks suspect

LONDON (AFP) – 

A British man has pleaded guilty to supplying money to Mohamed Abrini, a key suspect in the Brussels and Paris attacks, a court heard Thursday as the trial opened of his alleged accomplice.

Mohammed Ali Ahmed, from Birmingham, has admitted handing over £3,000 (3,540 euros, $3,730) in cash to the so-called “man in the hat” in the central English city in July 2015, the court heard.

The news came as the trial opened in London of another Birmingham man, Belgian citizen Zakaria Boufassil, who is accused of the same charge as Ahmed but has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Max Hill told jurors: “There is no doubt that the money was handed over with the intention of assisting acts of terrorism.”

He added: “We suggest that Mr Boufassil committed this offence together with Ahmed, and he is as guilty as his co-defendant Ahmed.”

Hill said that Abrini was interviewed by Belgian investigators in April over his suspected involvement in the Brussels attacks in March and the Paris attacks last November.

He told the investigators that, during a visit to Syria, a man called “Abaaoud” had asked him to collect some money in Britain and given him some phone numbers as contacts.

Abrini was instructed to go to Small Heath Park in Birmingham and described being taken by Ahmed to the location where he was handed the money in a bag by Boufassil, the court heard.

The tracked locations of the phones being used by the men converged at around 3.30pm in the park, Hill said, adding: “That was the handover of the money by Ahmed and Mr Boufassil to Abrini.”

The money was withdrawn from the bank account of an associate of Ahmed, Anwar Haddouchi, who had by that time left Britain to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State group, the court heard.

“The intention could not be more clear. Haddouchi had left the UK to fight for Daesh in Syria,” Hill told the court.

“Abrini had come to collect the money in the UK.

“The destination of the money would certainly include Syria — it would appear Daesh, also known as Islamic State — either to Haddouchi himself or to other fighters.”

The trial is subject to strict reporting restrictions.

Belgium will next week examine France’s request for the extradition of Mohamed Abrini, who has been linked to both the Paris and Brussels attacks, federal prosecutors said Friday.

A court hearing will be held in Brussels on January 9 to examine the request to transfer Abrini from Belgium to France, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

In March, Belgian police arrested the 31-year-old Abrini, a key suspect in the Paris attacks last November 13 in which 130 people were killed.

He also turned out to be the so-called “man in the hat” seen in CCTV footage with two bombers shortly before they staged the Brussels airport assault on March 22.

The bombings, combined with another an hour later at a Brussels metro station, killed a total of 32 people.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161124-briton-admits-giving-money-brussels-paris-attacks-suspect