• Brussels, Paris attacks suspect claims UK not a target

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    LONDON: A suspect in the Brussels and Paris terror attacks told investigators that he was not scouting for targets during a visit to Britain last year and the money he collected was for his gambling addiction, a British court heard on Monday.

    Mohamed Abrini, who is currently in custody in Belgium, also said that England was “difficult” to attack due to tighter security measures, and said there was “no plan” to target the country.

    His comments were extracts from his interrogation heard at the trial of Zakaria Boufassil, a Belgian citizen living in Birmingham and accused of giving Abrini £3,000 ($3,720, 3,520 euros) in cash in the central English city on July 11, 2015.

    Boufassil has denied the charge.

    Abrini, dubbed the “man in the hat” for his image caught on security cameras before the Brussels airport bombing, was questioned by Belgian investigators in April over his suspected involvement in the Brussels attacks in March and the Paris attacks last November.

    “There’s no plan to target England as a potential site for a terrorist act. From what I know, it’s France who is declared the enemy of Islamic State,” he was quoted as saying during the questioning.

    “I think England has a more developed secret service, better observation techniques etc… and it’s therefore more difficult to attack,” he said.

    During his visit to Britain, travelling from Syria via Turkey, Abrini said he collected the money and visited casinos in Birmingham and in Manchester, northwest England.

    “I am a player, a fan of casinos… It’s my addiction, I play roulette, poker and the slot machines,” he said.

    Abrini said the money was “not for a terrorist network” because it was “too small a sum”, adding: “To carry out attacks you need lots of money.”

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

    AFP

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