Belgium dropped probe into Paris attackers before massacre: report

Brussels (AFP) - Belgian police abandoned a probe into participants in the Paris attacks ahead of the massacre due to a lack of funds, despite flagging them as priority terror suspects, a report said on Tuesday.

The official report was submitted to a Belgian parliamentary committee tasked with investigating failings by Belgian authorities in the run-up to November's attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.

The content of the report was leaked to Le Soir newspaper and included the revelation that federal police abandoned closer tracking of brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam nine months before the attacks because of a funding shortage.

Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 13 terror attacks, was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after four months on the run as Europe's most wanted man.

His brother Brahim blew himself up outside a bar during the attacks, wounding one person.

Both were reported to federal authorities in January 2015 by a local police officer in Molenbeek, the rundown Brussels district that has grabbed global attention as the home of several Islamic State attackers.

After the tip-off, an anti-terror prosecutor asked federal police to take a closer look at the brothers, including by tracking their phone calls and emails.

But the police unit never followed up on the allegations, telling the report's authors that they lacked the staff and means to investigate the siblings.

Belgian authorities have faced strong criticism at home and abroad for not doing more to prevent the Paris carnage.

The criticism grew louder after the Brussels attacks on March 22, which killed 32 people. Clear links have emerged between the Brussels attackers and the jihadists behind the Paris assaults.

Salah Abdeslam is currently awaiting extradition from Belgium to France. He has denied any prior knowledge of the Brussels bombings.

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