Belgian police have arrested two members of a notorious biker gang previously accused of Islamist sympathies on suspicion of planning a terror attack over the New Year.
“Military-type training uniforms, IS propaganda material and computer equipment" were found when police raided locations in Brussels, Liege in the east of the country and Flemish Brabant, the prosecutor's office said.
The statement did not give the names of the two men arrested, who are due to appear in court on Thursday, identifying them only as "Said S. and Mohammed K.".
However, the pair were said to be members of a biker club known as the "Kamikaze Riders MC", and "Said S." was named in local media as Said Saouti, one of the gang's co-founders.
He was described last year, in an article on the phenomenon of radical biker gangs by a Dutch police specialist, as having both a criminal past in burglary and arms offences and also to be an active Salafi preacher. He had named the prominent al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as his "teacher".
The gang is one of a number of biker groups that operate on the fringes of ethnic and religious minority life in both Belgium and Holland, and has branches in both countries. Its founders were of Moroccan origin, with Saouti apparently born in the Dutch town of Anderlecht.
Kamikaze Raiders has been noted before for its sympathies with hardline Islamism. One of its other founders, Abdelouafi Elouassaki, was suspected and cleared previously of links to Islamist militancy and had two brothers, Hakim and Houssein, who went to fight in Syria.
One, Houssien, is said to have been killed, though other reports allege he is still active and leading a band of Belgian Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters. Abdelouafi is said to have gone to retrieve his other brother, Hakim, after he was injured.
Hakim has not been put on trial, pending inquiries into his mental health. Abdelouafi Elouassaki died in a motorbike crash in 2013, though Kamikaze Riders' Facebook page is still named after him.
Houssien Elouassaki was also sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia for membership of Sharia4Belgium, a militant group designated as linked to terror which was disbanded three years ago.
Four other members of Kamikaze Riders were said to have been questioned by police in connection with the alleged plot, which was to have targeted the Grand Place in Brussels and other "symbolic targets" over the New Year holidays and to have been planned along the same lines as the Bataclan attacks in Paris last month.
Mohamed K was named by local media as Mohamed Karay and said to have worked as a car mechanic. He was also said to be a member of a local paintball club.
The known links to jihadism of the motorbike gang's members will again draw attention to the Belgian police's record in monitoring homegrown Islamist militants.
A number of the Paris attackers were from Belgium, including Molenbeek, the Brussels suburb from where a number of Belgian terrorists are known to have come. It is now thought the Paris attacks may have been co-ordinated by phone from Belgium by a co-ordinator who has yet to be identified.
One of the Paris suicide bombers, Bilal Hatfi, was a member of a Molenbeek street gang known as "Versailles" which is said to have been associated with the Kamikaze Riders club, at least on social media. Versailles has been implicated in a number of serious crimes, including murder.
Some members of Kamikaze Riders have come forward to defend its reputation, saying it cannot be held responsible for the actions or beliefs of individual members.
Ludovic Ansel told RTL radio the group was neither a gang nor a terrorist organisation. “It’s not only Arabs, not only Muslims. There are Christians, there are Africans. We’re a family. We make video clips, we hold motorbike rallies, we do charity work for schools," he said.
The Facebook page carries a mixture of posts, some showing motorbikes and others attacking Israeli policies. One shows a comic video in which a man dressed in Arab clothing catches passers-by by surprise, throwing a suitcase at them as if it were a bomb and recording their horrified reactions.