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Belgium freezes assets of 15 people linked to terrorism

Associated Press Associated Press 10/11/2016

BRUSSELS — Belgium has frozen the assets of 15 people allegedly linked to terrorism, including a Belgian man identified as being a possible organizer of the deadly attacks on Paris and Brussels.

A royal decree announcing the freeze says the 15, including alleged organizer Oussama Atar, are "suspected of committing or attempting to commit terrorist acts; to aid or participate in them." The decision, which took effect Wednesday, also imposes a ban on directly or indirectly providing funds or economic resources to them.

"We are going to systematically extend this list in the months and years to come," Justice Minister Koen Geens told lawmakers Thursday.

He said Belgium's terror prevention service has drawn up 27 names, most of them people suspected of traveling to Syria or Iraq to fight or train with extremists, to be targeted.

Justice and security officials confirmed Tuesday that Atar's name appears in the investigation into the attacks, which killed a total of 162 people. Atar is suspected to be the real identity of Abu Ahmed, a pseudonym of the suspected attack coordinator. His whereabouts are unknown.

Atar's name has been circulating in Belgium for months as possibly linked to the attacks but Belgian prosecutors have declined to comment on it.

Investigators believe the same Islamic State cell was behind the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, which left 130 dead, and the March 22 suicide bombings on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people.

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