Belgian linked to drugs, not Paris attack: prosecutors

Pedestrians and vehicles on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on April 21 ,2017, a day after a gunman opened fire on police on the avenue, killing a policeman and wounding two others

A man questioned in Belgium after the Champs Elysees attack in Paris is wanted in a drugs case and has no link to the fatal shooting in France, Belgian prosecutors said Friday.

French sources said Belgian police who searched the suspect's home in the port city of Antwerp had found weapons, balaclavas and a train ticket for France hours before a gunman shot dead a police officer and wounded two others in Paris.

However, the Belgian federal prosecutor "rules out any link" between the man questioned and the attack on the Champs Elysees, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told AFP.

"The man was wanted in a drugs case. His home was searched but the man was not there," the spokesman added.

"Investigators discovered that he had searched on his computer for a trip to Paris on the Thalys train," the spokesman said.

"We therefore informed our French colleagues that this man was of interest to us in connection with the drugs case," he said.

With his name appearing on social media after Thursday's attack, the suspect turned himself into a police station in Antwerp where he was questioned, the spokesman said.

He was found to have an alibi because he was at his place of work, the spokesman said. Belgian media said he worked at a petrol station.

Belgium came under the spotlight again after the Islamic State group claimed on its propaganda agency Amaq that the Paris gunman, a 39-year-old Frenchman, is "Abu Yussef the Belgian and he is one of the Islamic State's fighters."

The prosecutor's spokesman said his colleagues are trying to determine if there really is a jihadist corresponding to that name.

Belgium first came under the spotlight after investigators said several men based in Brussels plotted and carried out the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more.

Members of the same cell then carried out the March 22 bombings in Brussels last year that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more. Investigators suspect they had planned another attack in Paris before police had closed in on them.

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