BRUSSELS: Two brothers who took part in the Paris attacks and the suspected chief organiser were on a terror suspect watch list handed out by Belgian intelligence to the mayor of Molenbeek a month ago, it emerged yesterday (Wednesday).
Francoise Schepmans, the mayor of Molenbeek, a Brussels district nicknamed a "terrorists' den" because of its links to jihadists, has admitted receiving a list with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected to be Islamic militants living in her area.
This included Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Molenbeek resident who had left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in early 2014 and was killed last week outside Paris, along with Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up on the boulevard Voltaire and his brother Salah Abdeslam - currently on the run.
Ms Schepmans told the New York Times: "What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists." That, she added, was "the responsibility of the federal police".
Belgium has come in for criticism in France over its perceived intelligence failings before and after the attacks, with Le Monde newspaper calling it a "clearing house for jihadism".
The Belgian capital has been under the highest-level threat alert since Saturday, meaning that authorities fear a "serious and imminent attack". Yet schools and subways began reopening yesterday, despite the hunt continuing for Abdeslam and another suspect named as Mohamed Abrini, 30, seen driving a car with Abdeslam two days before the atrocities.
In neighbouring France, Francois Hollande urged fellow countrymen to deck their homes with the national flag during a day of mourning on Friday for victims of the Paris attacks.
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, warned that France's war on terror would last a long time amid a "permanent" threat of more attacks.