Belgium charges three with trying to join Syria militants

Close to 500 Belgians have gone to Syria to join extremist fighters, including ISIS

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Belgium has charged three people with trying to go to Syria and join fighters there, the federal prosecutor’s office said Sunday.

Police arrested four people on Saturday after raids in Jumet, near the southern city of Charleroi, on suspicion that they planned to go to either war-torn Syria or Libya.

A spokesman for the federal prosecutor confirmed that three had been charged for links to a terrorist organization and were now being held in preventive detention.

The spokesman said the fourth person had been freed after questioning.

Press reports said the three included a couple which had become radicalized recently.

Of the couple, the man aged 23 and a convert to Islam had told police he wanted to travel to Syria to do humanitarian work.

Around 500 Belgians may have gone as foreign fighters to Syria, joining up with militants, including from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group which claimed the November attacks on the French capital.

Belgian police have arrested 11 people in connection with the November 13 attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded as it emerges that the onslaught was largely organized and coordinated from Belgium.

Earlier this month, the authorities identified three safe houses used by key Paris suspects -- in Brussels, in Charleroi, an hour’s drive south of the capital, and in Auvelais, a village near the French border.

The prosecutor’s office said Saturday that the Jumet arrests were not linked to the ongoing investigation into the Paris attacks.

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