A suicide bomber who blew himself up in the Paris attacks was buried today in Brussels, as police pursued two suspected Islamic extremists who escaped a deadly raid this week.
Brahim Abdeslam, 31, was the brother of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the November 13 carnage in the French capital which left 130 dead.
Salah fled Paris immediately afterwards, slipping back to their home city of Brussels and then disappearing.
An AFP reporter said another brother, Mohamed, along with five other men carried Brahim’s coffin to the grave, followed by a cortege of some 20 people, friends or relatives and watched by several journalists.
Mohamed told the reporters: “You can watch and write your stories but please, out of respect, no photographs.”
On a bright spring day, several plain clothes policemen observed the burial ceremony from a discreet distance in the Muslim section of the Brussels Mixed Faith Cemetery in the northwest of the city.
Another of the Paris attackers, Bilal Hadfi, was buried quietly in the same cemetery last week.
With Belgium on continued high terror alert, police shot dead an Algerian national with suspected ties to the Islamic State (IS) group during a raid on Tuesday linked to the Paris attacks claimed by IS.
Two men escaped the shootout, which closed down much of a southern suburb of the capital where armed troops and police have been on patrol following the January 2015 Paris attacks which also had a Belgian link.
Sources close to the investigation told AFP today that the police raided an apartment in the Forest area believing it was rented under the same false identity as a hideout in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi.
There, police found DNA traces of Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud as well as Chakib Akrouh, both of whom were killed by police shortly after November 13.
Said Chibani, head of the community organisation which runs the cemetery, stressed today that he “had taken the decision not to refuse burial to people involved in recent terrorist acts.”
“Based on the principle that any death must be followed by burial, it is our duty to respect the wishes of the family,” Chibani said in a statement.
The Abdeslam family is of Moroccan origin and hails from the run-down Brussels quarter of Molenbeek which is home to a large immigrant community.
The family originally wanted to bury Brahim in Morocco but said they got no response from the authorities and took that to mean permission was refused.
“We did not get a reply and patience has its limits; we could not leave the body with the authorities indefinitely,” his brother Mohamed told AFP.