Six Pakistani-born British men have been arrested in Belgium after being spotted in old ambulances near Brussels while the capital was in lock down amid fears of a Paris-style terror attack.
A heavily-armed anti-terror unit swooped on the group near a petrol station which is regularly used by Salah Abdeslam – the fugitive terrorist still at large eight days after 130 people were killed in the French capital. Six armoured trucks and a police car rushed in after the old ambulances were parked in a rest area beside the E411 highway in Bierges, south-east of Brussels, at around 2pm local time on Saturday. One of the men is understood to be known to British police who are assisting Belgian authorities.
Police are investigating any link to Islamic State (ISIS) after it was revealed using old ambulances was a hallmark cover tactic used by the terror group.
The British men were said to be co-operating with detectives and have been fingerprinted to check for possible matching. The arrests came as it was revealed the alleged mastermind behind the Paris attacks was part of an extremist network linked to at least six hate preachers from Britain.
Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud – who was killed in an anti-terror raid by French authorities in Saint-Denis after the atrocities in the French capital on November 13 – was associated with a banned terrorist group called Sharia4Belgium. The militant group, which has sent more than 50 Belgian fighters to join ISIS in Syria, was founded by in 2010 by Fouad Belkacem after he travelled to London to seek inspiration from a radical British cleric. Members of the group also approached Omar Bakri Muhammad, the former London-based hate preacher who was banned from Britain in 2005, while he was living in exile in Lebanon to help gain access to jihadis in Syria.