The Latest: Court date for Paris suspect Abdeslam postponed

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2016 6:11 AM
The Latest: Court date for Paris suspect Abdeslam postponed

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the attacks in Brussels and related investigations (all times local):

11:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has led thousands of people in silent prayer for the victims of the attacks at Brussels' airport and in its metro.

At the end of his public audience in St. Peter's Square Wednesday, Francis expressed his closeness to the "dear Belgian people" and asked the crowd of pilgrims and tourists to join him silently in prayer.

He also appealed to "all persons of good will to unite in unanimous condemnation" of the attacks causing death, horror and sorrow.

Francis is preparing to celebrate Holy Week ceremonies that will draw large crowds, including a Colosseum cross procession and culminating with Easter Mass in the square on Sunday.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome on Wednesday issued a travel alert advising "particular caution during religious holidays" as well as at large events.

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11:05 a.m.

The Czech Defense Ministry says soldiers have been deployed as part of stepped-up security measures following the attacks in Brussels.

As of Wednesday morning, the ministry says 550 service members will be patrolling international airports, train stations and other places in the capital and all across the country, working with police officers.

Security was also boosted at Prague's subway network, at the country's two nuclear power plants and some foreign embassies.

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10:55 a.m.

A lawyer's assistant says a judicial hearing in Brussels for Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been postponed for a day to Thursday, apparently because of heightened security concerns in the Belgian capital.

 Bombing attacks Tuesday in the Brussels airport and subway killed 34 people and wounded scores, and the terrorism alert level throughout Belgium has been raised to its maximum level.

Abdeslam, who was arrested Friday in Brussels, was to appear Wednesday before a panel of judges who could extend his detention by another month. French authorities are seeking Abdeslam's extradition so he can be tried for his alleged role in the Nov. 13 bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 in Paris.

 An assistant to Sven Mary, Abdeslam's defense lawyer, told The Associated Press her boss was told the hearing had been rescheduled for Thursday morning. She refused to give her name.

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9:55 a.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is urging the EU parliament to get going on authorizing a passenger name record (PNR) covering Europe.

He says: "It is urgent to adopt the European PNR. The European Parliament has waited too long to adopt this text. It must examine and adopt it in April, it's time."

Valls is going to Brussels today and says he will express his "full solidarity" with Belgium's people.

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9:45 a.m.

As Brussels woke after its worst violence in decades, joggers ran loops and dog walkers chatted as usual in Brussels' 18th-century Warandepark across from the country's parliament. But gardeners on duty said the atmosphere was different, and the mood around town was jittery as sirens frequently wailed.

"It was black day. A very black day," said Jean-Marie Vrebos, 58, who was cleaning the park's playground. "We should punish those who commit terrorism. We don't deserve terror. We should punish them, GRAB them" — he yanked a piece of trash off the ground with a clasper — "and bring them to justice."

His colleague Kevin Engels, 24, said, "Behaviors have changed. Even our bosses seem stressed. They asked us to empty all the trash cans. We pay close attention to everything. And you can hear the sirens."

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9:30 a.m.

Germany's top security official says he wants European security agencies to be able to exchange information more easily.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told RTL television late Tuesday that the Brussels attacks "and the security situation, the terror situation, should make us put the data protection arguments last."

De Maziere also says a soccer friendly match against England will go ahead despite the Brussels attacks. He says authorities "have no indications of a security threat" targeting the match in Berlin on Saturday.

In November, Islamic extremists tried to enter the stadium where Germany was playing France as part of a series of attacks in Paris. Days later, a friendly against the Netherlands days was canceled because of a security warning.

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8:30 a.m.

Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country's deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union's capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after 34 were killed in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station.

Police conducted raids into the night and circulated a photo of three men seen in the airport suspected of involvement in Tuesday's attacks.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF has identified two of the attackers as brothers Khalid and Brahim Bakraoui. They are believed to have blown themselves up in the attacks.

The third man is at large and has not been identified.

The report Wednesday says the brothers were known to police for past crimes, but nothing relating to terrorism. RTBF says Khalid Bakraoui had rented an apartment which was raided by police last week in an operation that led authorities to top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.