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Paris attack suspects sentenced in Belgium

Suspects, who were handed 16-year prison terms for November attacks, were arrested during a raid in Belgium.

Marouan El Bali

A judge in Belgium has sentenced the main suspects linked to the deadly attacks that rocked Paris in November.

Marouan El Bali, who survived a gunfight in January 2015 when police shot dead two armed men, was given 16 years in prison on Tuesday, as were two other members of the cell, Mohammed Arshad Mahmood Najmi and Souhaib El Abdi.

The judge said El Bali was in touch with leading figures of armed groups in Syria and was involved in tactical discussions.

Prosecutors alleged the suspects were members of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) cell dismantled in a bloody raid in the Belgian town of Verviers in January.

Prosecutors said the men standing trial were in constant contact with ISIL through the leader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and were planning an attack in Belgium.

"The cell in Verviers aimed for the bloodiest possible attacks using bombs and automatic weapons," judge Pierre Hendrickx said.

"For Abaaoud and the Verviers cell the [Brussels] airport at Zaventem constituted a target," Hendrickx said.

Abaaoud was shot dead in a gun battle with French police five days after the attacks in Paris.

Shootings and bombings in the French capital on November 13 left 137 people dead, including seven attackers.


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