Belgian police raided homes in four cities Wednesday and detained 14 people suspected of involvement in a terrorist network that sent fighters to Iraq, including a Belgian woman reported to have carried out a suicide bombing in Baghdad.
Belgian authorities "want to dismantle this network, which we knew was on our territory and which aimed to send volunteers" to fight in Iraq, Glenn Audenaert, the federal police director, told reporters.
More than 200 police officers took part in raids at dawn in Brussels and three other cities following media reports that a Belgian woman had blown herself up in a Nov. 9 attack in Baghdad. The woman reportedly carried out a car bombing against an American patrol. U.S. officials said she was the only person killed.
The woman was 38, her first name was Mireille and she came from a middle-class background in Charleroi, about 30 miles south of Brussels, an official close to the investigation said on condition of anonymity.
The woman converted to Islam after she married a man from Morocco, officials said. "This is how she came into contact with the organization which allowed her to become a fighter," Audenaert said.
Her husband was killed in Iraq in a separate incident, officials said.
Nine of the 14 suspects detained Wednesday were Belgian. Three were Moroccan and two were Tunisian.
In addition, French police in the Paris area detained a Tunisian who they suspected of having been in contact with one of those arrested in Belgium. The suspect is also thought to have known the husband of the alleged suicide bomber.
Intelligence officials had previously identified Belgium as a staging area for terrorists. Thirteen Belgians and Moroccans are on trial for alleged membership in a radical Islamic group suspected in bombings in Spain and Morocco.