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Mohamed Belkaid, Brussels Gunman, Sought Islamic State Suicide Mission

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ERIC VAN DER SYPT THIERRY WERTS
Eric Van Der Sypt (L) and Thierry Werts, respectively Dutch and French speaking spokespersons of the Brussels federal prosecutor, deliver a press conference in Brussels on March 16, 2016 regarding yesterday's shooting in the rue du Dries-Driesstraat in Forest-Vorst. (LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty Images
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PARIS — The Algerian gunman newly linked to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris after being killed by police joined the Islamic State group in 2014 and told the extremists he wanted to die as a suicide bomber, bypassing the choice to be a fighter.

Previously unknown to authorities, Mohamed Belkaid was shot to death on Tuesday in a raid that led to the arrest of fugitive Salah Abdeslam, who is thought to have escaped the apartment while Belkaid fired the Kalashnikov assault rifle later found near his body.

According to exclusive documents given to The Associated Press by the Syrian opposition news site Zaman al-Wasl, Belkaid told the extremists he had travelled throughout Europe — including to Spain, Germany and France — and listed his residence as Sweden. He provided a passport to the group and a phone number for a close relative, which on Friday rang as a non-functioning line.

No previous experience as a jihadi

In the document, he said he had no experience as a jihadi and no one to vouch for him as he crossed the border on April 19, 2014. Islamic State prizes the growth of its networks abroad, and having a sponsor is seen as both a sign of credibility and a way to measure the extent of its reach.

Belkaid listed his occupation as a candy maker.

"There was a certain organization that allowed the people at large to pass from hideout to hideout."

German intelligence authorities say they also have a copy of some of the same documents as the Syrian opposition site, and that they are believed to be authentic.

Belkaid's "application'' to the Islamic State group and his subsequent ties to the Nov. 13 attackers, many of whom met and trained together in Syria, highlights the difficulty in uncovering the extent of the plot that led to 130 deaths in Paris.

"There was a certain organization that allowed the people at large to pass from hideout to hideout,'' said Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office spokesman Thierry Werts.

In a statement, the office said the investigation continues "day and night.''

Hollande predicts more arrests

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that more people were involved in the attacks than initially thought, and predicted more arrests would follow that of Abdeslam and four others.

On Friday, Belgian prosecutors said Belkaid was "most probably'' an accomplice of Abdeslam and had been using a fake Belgian ID card in the name of Samir Bouzid. A man using that ID was one of two men seen with Abdeslam in a rental car on the Hungarian-Austrian border in September.

The same fake ID was used on Nov. 17 to transfer 750 euros to the cousin of Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the suspected ringleader of the attack. Both Hasna Ait Boulahcen and Abbaoud died in a police siege of the apartment paid for by that transfer, which was destroyed by a suicide attacker holed up with the two.

Belkaid was killed Tuesday by a police sniper in Brussels. A Kalashnikov assault rifle was found by his body, as well as a book on Salafism, an ultraconservative strain of Islam. Elsewhere in the apartment, police found an Islamic State banner as well as 11 Kalashnikov loaders and a large quantity of ammunition, the prosecutor said.

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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