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Report: Brussels cell planned attack on Euro 2016

By Allen Cone
Mohamed Abrini told investigators that Brussels was not the original target. File Photo courtesy Belgian National Police
Mohamed Abrini told investigators that Brussels was not the original target. File Photo courtesy Belgian National Police

BRUSSELS, April 11 (UPI) -- The terror cell that attacked Paris and Brussels was planning to target the Euro 2016 soccer championships in France this summer, according to a source close to the investigation.

The French newspaper Liberation reported that Mohamed Abrini told Belgian investigators the original bombing target was France and not Belgium. Abrini was arrested Friday in raids across the Belgian capital. He was positively identified as the "man in the hat" -- the third man in the March 22 Brussels Airport attack.

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The soccer tournament is scheduled for between June 10 and July 10 in 10 host cities, including Paris.

Abrini reportedly told detectives that the plotters feared police were closing in on them after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, who was thought to be the last surviving attacker in Paris in November that killed 130 and wounded hundreds.

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They switched targets three days after Abdeslam's arrest. The coordinated attacks on Brussels airport and the city metro system killed 32.

"Eventually ... they urgently took the decision to strike in Brusels," the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said.

A source also told CNN that a computer found in a garbage bin outside the group's bomb factory contained research indicating La Defense shopping mall in Paris and a Catholic association were additional targets, the source said.

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In November, the same cell carried out three suicide bombings outside the French national stadium during Germany's game against France.

On Sunday, Belgian prosecutors said "numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again."

"Eventually, surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation, they urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels," the statement said.

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