Brussels: A Belgian man on trial over a foiled extremist plot told a court Tuesday that he obeyed detailed orders from Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the late ringleader of the deadly Paris attacks.
Mohamed Arshad, 27, said he acted on instructions from Abaaoud to buy walkie-talkies, ingredients for explosives, rent two vehicles and a flat in the town of Verviers, purchase furniture and work to obtain false papers.
Arshad is one of seven men who went on trial in Brussels on Monday accused of belonging to a cell plotting to kill Belgian police officers, which was dismantled in a deadly raid in Verviers in January 2015.
"It was not very well thought out. I did what was asked of me," Arshad said in a deposition to the court, adding that Abaaoud had put "pressure" on him during calls the latter made from Turkey.
Abaaoud was killed in a French police raid days after the Nov. 13 Paris gun and bombing attacks in which he allegedly played the role of ringleader.
He also had close links to the cell behind the March 22 Brussels airport and metro attacks.
French President Francois Hollande has said the same terror cell was behind the Paris massacre, in which gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people, and the Brussels attacks in which 32 people died.
Both attacks have been claimed by ISIS.
Arshad said he acted on Abaaoud's orders to obtain five fake passports and five false identity cards using photographs and money he acquired during a visit to Syria in September 2014. One photo was of Abaaoud himself.
In order to obtain the documents, he said, he contacted small-time criminal Souhaib El Abdi, who is on trial with him in the Brussels court.
"I provided false papers, but I did nothing else. I did not leave for Syria. I was not involved in any terrorist act," Abdi told the court.
However, hours after the Verviers raid, Abdi left Belgium with his brother Ismael and were arrested at the French-Italian border early the next day.
The main suspect at the trial of the Verviers cell is Marouane El Bali, who is accused of attempted murder for firing at police during the gunfight in Verviers, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Brussels.
He denies the charges.
Killed in the raid were Sofiane Amghar and Khalid Ben Larbi who went to Syria to join ISIS in April 2014. The two then slipped back into Belgium to the Verviers hideout.
Arshad allegedly went to France and Germany to take them to Verviers.
Nine suspects who are still at large are being tried in their absence....