Germany, France cancel anti-Islamic rallies; Belgian search continues

Belgian officials say they are still searching for the ringleader of a terrorist cell

German authorities canceled right-wing protests Sunday, citing threats, and Belgian officials said they were still searching for the ringleader of a terrorist cell as Europe continued to grapple with the aftermath of extremist attacks in Paris.

Meanwhile, French police said they had released three women who were among 12 people arrested last week in an anti-terrorism sweep in the Paris suburbs connected to the attacks that killed 17 people this month.

“They didn’t play a direct role in the attacks,” French police union spokesman Christophe Crepin said.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Terrorism suspects: An article in the Jan. 18 Section A about the arrest of terrorism suspects in Greece misspelled the first name of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man suspected of being a ringleader of a Belgian terrorist cell, as Abelhamid. —
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Also Sunday, a French court halted a rally by anti-Islamic groups in Paris, according to France’s BFM TV.

In Germany, police banned a scheduled rally by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West and other public gatherings in the eastern city of Dresden, citing a threat against the right-wing populist group. Organizers said a death threat had been posted on Facebook, according to the local newspaper Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten.

The attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher market in Paris have prompted soul-searching and massive investigations in Europe, and focused attention on other, apparently unrelated terrorist cells, including one raided in Belgium.

Officials had been investigating possible ties between four men stopped Saturday in Greece and the cell in Belgium. Belgian officials said Sunday that the four did not include the ringleader they are seeking, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a Moroccan raised in Belgium who left to join Islamic State militants in Syria.

However, they requested that one of the suspects be extradited, according to BFM TV.

Belgian police have charged five of the 13 people who were detained last week, and two have been released, according to Radio Television Belge Francophone. The arrests were part of a massive sweep that left two dead Thursday after a firefight with police in the eastern city of Verviers and stopped a “large-scale” attack hours before it was set to occur, federal prosecutors said.

Hundreds of Belgian soldiers took to the streets over the weekend to protect potential terrorist targets.

Italy has expelled nine suspected terrorists since late December, some of whom had joined Islamic State and recruited relatives to fight in Syria, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Sunday, adding that authorities plan to expel more.

European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the threat of homegrown terrorists after the Paris attacks that started Jan. 7 and left 17 victims dead. The three gunmen, Amedy Coulibaly and brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, were also killed.

Twitter: @mollyhf

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:14 p.m.: This story was updated throughout.

This story was first published at 4:23 a.m.

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