World Bulletin / News Desk
A British court on Monday jailed two men for up to eight years for handing money to Brussels and Paris terror attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini when he visited Britain last year.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed and Zakaria Boufassil gave £3,000 ($3,770, 3,550 euros) in cash to Abrini in the central English city of Birmingham in July 2015, knowing it would be used for terrorism.
Ahmed, a 27-year-old from Birmingham, had pleaded guilty to the offence last month and received an eight-year jail term.
Boufassil, a 26-year-old Belgian citizen also from Birmingham, had admitted meeting Abrini in a Birmingham park and holding the money for Ahmed, but said he had "no idea" of its intended use.
However, a jury dismissed this claim last week and he was sentenced to three years behind bars.
It emerged Monday, after the judge lifted reporting restrictions, that Boufassil claimed he was recruited by British intelligence agency MI5 after the meeting with Abrini.
He claimed to have been given up to £3,000 in exchange for information, using it to go to Morocco to see his girlfriend. He was arrested on his return in April 2016.
Boufassil's lawyer tried to use the MI5 claim to argue that he did not hold any allegiance to a particular terrorist group or cause.
The prosecuting lawyer said she could neither "confirm nor deny" the claims, and the judge ruled they could not be used in evidence.
Abrini was dubbed the "man in the hat" after his image was caught on security cameras before the Brussels attacks in March, which left 32 people dead.
He is in custody in Belgium, but is also suspected of providing support for the Paris attacks in November 2015, in which 130 people died.
Boufassil's trial heard that Abrini had told Belgian investigators how he was told by a cell in Syria to visit Britain and collect the money.
The cash was withdrawn from the bank account of an associate of Ahmed, Anwar Haddouchi, who had travelled to Syria to fight for ISIL.
French police on Monday arrested 11 people suspected of helping to arm the Islamist radical who crushed 86 people to death with a truck in Nice, sources close to the investigation said.
Ten suspects, including one or more Albanians, were arrested in various parts of Nice and another was detained in the western city of Nantes, the sources said.
The victims from 19 different countries were watching a fireworks display on the Bastille Day public holiday. Over 400 people were injured.
The 11 people arrested Monday are believed to have been in contact with three people, including two Albanians, arrested in July and charged with supplying Bouhlel with an assault rifle and a pistol.
Bouhlel used the pistol in a firefight with police who shot him dead at the scene, ending his bloody rampage.
"They (the 11) did not necessarily know about the attack but they are part of a criminal milieu involved in arms smuggling," a source said, adding that the person arrested in Nantes had previously lived in Nice.
Under France's anti-terror laws, they can be held for four days before being brought before a magistrate to face charges or being released.
Six people have been charged so far over alleged links to the 31-year-old killer but investigators have yet to prove that any of them knew what he was planning.
ISIL moved quickly after the attack to claim Bouhlel as one of its followers.
Investigators said he suffered from depression and appeared to have become radicalised very quickly.
The massacre on the palm-fringed Promenade des Anglais was the latest in a series of jihadist attacks that have rocked France over the past two years.
The violence began with the January 2015 attacks on a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris and continued 10 months later with coordinated strikes on the capital's Bataclan concert hall, national stadium and cafe terraces.
The attacks have hardened attitudes on security and immigration, fuelling the rise of the far-right ahead of next year's presidential election.
AFPGüncelleme Tarihi: 12 Aralık 2016, 20:29