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Child-Sex Probe Leads to Four Arrests with 1991 Murder

September 7, 1996 GMT

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Police arrested four men Friday in connection with the 1991 murder of a leading politician after a reported tip from prosecutors investigating a gang of suspected child-killers.

The connection between the two cases remained unclear.

Belgium’s BRTN radio said police arrested Richard Taxquet and Domenico Castellino in the killing of Andre Cools, a former deputy prime minister and leader of the Socialist Party. Cools was gunned down in 1991 in Liege.

The names of the other two arrested were not immediately released.

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Cools, who was prominent in the 1960s and ’70s, had quit politics months before his murder at 63. His death has always been seen as politically motivated.

``There is a determination to find the truth,″ Justice Minister Stefaan de Clerck said.

The Cools case resurfaced as police investigated the killings of four children and teen-agers by a suspected child-sex network. Some of the 10 people arrested in that case are also charged with auto theft and insurance fraud and are suspected of links with other underworld gangs.

Belgian radio said investigators working on the child-murder case were consulting with Liege prosecutors leading the Cools murder inquiry.

Police began digging Friday in the yard of a suburban Brussels house owned by the mother of Michele Martin, wife of Marc Dutroux, the main suspect in the child-murder case. Martin is also charged with kidnapping.

Police also continued to look for evidence _ possibly including more bodies _ at other sites in Belgium.

In the eastern city of Hasselt, mourners attended a candlelight vigil ahead of the funerals Saturday of An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambrecks, 19, whose bodies were discovered this week buried near a house owned by an associate of Dutroux. They had disappeared last year.

The child-sex drama has brought an outpouring of grief and outrage since Aug. 17, when police uncovered the bodies of two 8-year-old girls buried in the garden of a house owned by Dutroux.

The investigation has criss-crossed Belgium and spread to other nations where Dutroux’s gang apparently had connections.

Polish police said Friday they were cooperating with Belgian police on the case. Authorities in Slovakia say Dutroux is suspected of killing a woman there last year.

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Dutroux was released from prison in 1992 after serving less than three years of a 13-year sentence for raping five children.

On Friday a court appointed Liege attorney Julien Pierre to defend him, ending weeks of searching for a lawyer willing to take the job.

Dutroux has been charged with abducting six girls, including the four found dead. The other two were found alive but had been sexually abused.