BRUSSELS – Belgian and French authorities were hunting two new suspects Friday in the Paris attacks who they say used fake identity cards around Europe and sent money to a relative of the man who orchestrated the attacks the day before the ringleader died in a shootout with French police.
The two men, carrying bogus ID in the names of Samir Bouzid and Soufiane Kayal, had been travelling in a Mercedes with another Paris attacks fugitive, Salah Abdeslam, when the car was checked Sept. 9 at the Hungarian-Austrian border, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement Friday.
The same Kayal ID was used to rent a house in the Belgian town of Auvelais that authorities have searched as a possible site for making the suicide bombs used in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the prosecutor’s office said.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for those gun-and-bomb attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds in Paris.
Belgian authorities said about 6 p.m. on Nov. 17, four days after the Paris attacks, the false identity card in the name of Bouzid was used at a Western Union office in the Brussels area to send a 750-euro ($817) money order to Hasna Ait Boulhacen, cousin of the purported attack ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Both Boulhacen and Abaaoud died a day later when French police stormed their hideout in a Paris suburb.
The two new suspects “are being actively sought by Belgian and French police services,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Spurred into action by the Paris attacks, the interior ministers of the European Union moved Friday to grant law-enforcement agencies access to information gathered by airlines — data like passengers’ names, travel dates, itinerary, credit cards and contact details.
The sharing of such data is meant to allow better scrutiny of known or suspected extremists.
Under the passenger data deal, details would be collected from European carrier flights entering or leaving the EU, as well as from flights between member countries. Charter flights will be included, and all the information will be kept on file for six months.
Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider, who chaired the meeting in Brussels, expressed his “pride that after so many years of negotiations, we have now been able to conclude an agreement.”
The passenger record agreement proposal was first made in 2007, but it languished in the European Parliament for years as EU lawmakers struggled to strike the right balance between security concerns and privacy rights. The assembly must still endorse the deal but that is likely to happen within the next month.
At least 5,000 Europeans are believed to have trained or fought in Syria and Iraq but authorities are struggling to track their movements and prove their activities. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described the new system as “indispensable in the fight against terrorism.”
The EU already has such passenger data deals with the U.S., Canada and Australia.
In Paris, patrons began returning as La Bonne Biere, a corner cafe in the trendy central district targeted by the gunmen, reopened Friday.
Since the attacks, the shuttered cafe has been piled high with flowers. Paule Zlotnik, a neighbouring shopkeeper, praised the decision to reopen.
“It’s time they open and that we continue life as it was before,” he said.
In surveillance video seen by The Associated Press, two gunmen in black calmly approached La Bonne Biere on the night of Nov. 13, firing deliberately on its outdoor tables before turning back toward a car rolling slowly behind them.