- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PARIS (AP) — French authorities on Tuesday questioned a top suspect linked to attackers who terrorized Paris, while Belgium’s capital remained locked down under threat of a possible similar attack.

Jawad Bendaoud, the only person in France facing potential terrorism charges linked to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was handed over Tuesday morning to an anti-terrorism judge in Paris, according to a judicial official. Bendaoud was detained last week for providing lodging to the suspected mastermind of the attacks in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Police raided the apartment Nov. 18, and three people were killed — including suspected attacks orchestrator Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a female cousin and one other. Bendaoud acknowledged in a telephone interview giving shelter to two people from Belgium but said he didn’t know who they were or what they planned. Bendaoud, 29, told BFM television, “I didn’t know they were terrorists. I was asked to do a favor. I did a favor, sir.”

He must be either charged or released Tuesday.

Four people have been handed terrorism charges in Belgium since the Paris attacks, which have been traced to a network of people with ties to both France and Belgium.

Brussels remained at its highest alert level Tuesday, after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel cited a “serious and imminent threat” to the city, which houses the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. Belgium’s crisis center said the alert level would only change if a significant breakthrough warranted it.

Increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital, with the subway system, many shops and schools remaining shut. Michel said that despite the continued high-alert level, schools would reopen on Wednesday.

Many questions remain unanswered as investigators try to piece together what happened and who might still be at large.

Only one fugitive has been publicly named: Salah Abdeslam, who crossed into Belgium the morning after the attacks.

A street cleaner in a Paris suburb found an explosive vest Monday near the place where Abdeslam’s cellphone was found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Authorities said the device, which did not have a detonator, was in a pile of rubble in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge. A police official said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the Nov. 13 attacks that claimed 130 lives and left hundreds wounded.

France’s security chiefs held a meeting Tuesday about protection for next year’s European soccer championships, being hosted in cities around France. Concerns are especially high because one of the targets of the Nov. 13 attacks was the country’s national stadium.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also held a meeting with French Muslim leaders, who have denounced the attacks and expressed concern about a backlash on France’s largely moderate, 5-million-strong Muslim community.

Also Tuesday, French police released a photo of a dog killed in the Saint-Denis apartment siege, a 7-year-old Belgian shepherd named Diesel. The National Police said Diesel, a SWAT team assault dog, was “killed by terrorists.”

___

Cheng reported from Brussels. Lori Hinnant in Paris and Raf Casert in Brussels also contributed to this report.


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