Two ex-Guantanamo inmates charged with 'terrorism' in Belgium

Policemen patrol in Antwerp, Belgium, on January 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Marco de Swart)
Policemen patrol in Antwerp, Belgium, on January 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Marco de Swart)

Brussels (AFP) - Two former inmates at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay have been arrested in Belgium on charges of belonging to a group suspected of recruiting jihadists for Syria, prosecutors said Friday.

The pair were arrested early Thursday in connection with a burglary at an apartment near the northern Belgian port city of Antwerp, a spokesman for the prosecutor, Jean Pascal Thoreau, told AFP.

He said the police acted after monitoring the activities of Moussa Zemmouri, a 37-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, and an Algerian identified as Soufiane A., both of whom had been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The pair were charged with "participating in the activities of a terrorist group," which in turn is suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria, he added.

They were also charged along with three other men with committing a burglary at night with a weapon and a vehicle, Thoreau said.

Zemmouri, who was the only one of the five not arrested at the scene, was locked up in Guantanamo from 2001 to 2005 on suspicion of belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combattant Group (GICM), blamed for attacks in Casablanca and Madrid.

Fewer details were given for Soufiane A., whose last name was not released, but Thoreau said he is suspected of having travelled to Syria.

Between 300 and 400 Belgians are among thousands of Europeans believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamist extremist groups.

Authorities in Europe fear a number of them could mount attacks when they return home trained in weapons use and hardened in battle.

The accused are due to reappear early next week before the Belgian authorities who will decide whether they should remain in detention.

The White House said Wednesday it is in the "final stages" of drafting a plan to close the contentious Guantanamo Bay prison and will submit it for review by lawmakers.