Explosive vest ‘contained same materials used in Paris attacks’
Brussels enters fourth day on highest terror alert amid ‘serious and imminent’ threat
Rubbish is piled up on a street corner where an explosive belt was found in a bin in Montrouge, near Paris, France. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA
An explosive vest found in a suburb south of Paris contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the November 13th attacks on the French capital, officials have revealed.
The vest - which had no detonator - was found on Monday by a street cleaner in a pile of rubble in Chatillon-Montrouge, just south of Paris.
The discovery of the vest in a Paris suburb came as Belgium’s prime minister cited a “serious and imminent” threat justifying keeping the highest alert level operational for at least another week. The security measures, already in place for three days, have severely disrupted normal life in the capital.
An official said laboratory analysis showed that the explosive material was TATP - used in seven other explosive vests in the attacks which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.
In addition, the vest was found in the same zone where the mobile phone of a man sought by police was located.
Police have been conducting a manhunt to find Salah Abdeslam, but it is not known if the explosive vest was abandoned by him. He was stopped by police in northern France after the attack, but allowed to continue his journey to Belgium.
Belgium-based terrorism expert Claude Moniquet, who has been in contact with both Belgian and French investigators since the attacks, laid out two possibilities. He said Abdeslam could have become afraid of carrying out a suicide mission or, more likely, that he simply ditched a defective explosive vest.
Nervousness could have played a role in concocting a defective vest, but he said he doubted fear played a role, for among Islamic State followers “it is rare not to go to the end”.
Mr Moniquet said this was only a theory since he had not yet spoken to investigators about the explosive vest find.
A manhunt is under way for Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim was among attackers who blew themselves up. He crossed the border into Belgium after the attacks, with French police stopping and interviewing him, before letting him go.
Brussels has entered its fourth day on high terror alert.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said Brussels faced a “serious and imminent” threat that requires keeping the city at the highest alert level. The rest of the country stays at the second-highest level. The increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital, with the underground system, many shops and schools remaining shut on Monday.
Mr Michel said that despite the continued high-alert level, schools would reopen on Wednesday, with parts of the underground system beginning to operate. He did not say when the system would be completely operational again. “We are very alert and call for caution,” Mr Michel said.
“The potential targets remain the same - shopping centres and shopping streets and public transport.” “We want to return to a normal way of life as quickly as possible,” he added.