The ISIS cell behind the Paris and Brussels attacks was planning to carry out an assault during the Euro 2016 soccer championship in France. Investigators are trying to verify the claim by Mohammed Abrini, a prime suspect in the Brussels attacks.
Abrini, who was arrested on Friday, told interrogators that the plans were changed after Salah Abdeslam was arrested on March 18. Abdeslam is the key suspect in the Paris attacks.
The investigators were told that the plotters made the hasty decision of hitting the Brussels airport because of their concern at the speed at which the police were closing in on them, the Independent reported.
The Euro 2016 football tournament, which is one of the world’s biggest sports spectacle, will be running across cities in France from June 10 to July 10.
CNN reported that there were already tensions regarding the security during the championship. The same cell launched three suicide bombings outside the French national stadium in November when Germany and France were locked in a match. The bombers reportedly tried to enter the stadium but failed.
However, Abrini confessed that it was not the Brussels airport but the Euro 2016 football championship that the group was targeting.
In November, the cell plotted the Paris attacks that resulted in the death of 130 people. Months later, the Brussels airport and Metro station bombings, planned by the same cell, killed another 32.
“It’s not a scoop to learn that the terrorists want to strike during the Euros,” a police source told Liberation newspaper. “Security forces constantly develop attack scenarios and the way to respond.”
He added that “If the Abrini statements are correct, it just confirms the fact that Belgium is an operational base that needs to be watched even more intensely. Jihadi networks and cells have been meeting there for at least 10 years.”
After the arrest of Abdeslam, Abrini remained the only other suspect of the Paris attacks on the run. Both are childhood friends and were caught on a CCTV camera together in a car just a day before the Paris attacks.