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Court acquits man accused of hiding Paris attackers

PARIS -- A French court has acquitted a man of charges of harboring killers who carried out the 2015 Paris terror attacks in the first trial related to the country's deadliest extremist violence since World War II.

The presiding judge said the Paris court found Jawad Bendaoud, an outspoken 31-year-old confirmed street criminal, not guilty of providing lodging to two of the attackers and helping them hide from police when they were the most-wanted criminals in France.

Bendaoud had faced up to six years in prison if convicted of providing lodging to the attackers, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks.

Bendaoud denied knowing who he had rented the apartment to.

The court also convicted and sentenced his two co-defendants. Mohamed Soumah, who was accused of acting as an intermediary, received a five-year prison sentence. Youssef Ait-Boulahcen, who was accused of being aware of the extremist's whereabouts and not informing authorities, was sentenced to three years.

The Nov. 13, 2015, attacks on Paris cafes, the national stadium and the Bataclan concert hall left 130 people dead in the country's deadliest extremist violence since World War II. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility.

With more than 400 rounds fired within 10 minutes at the restaurants, the coordinated attacks were a wake-up call for France and for Europe. They followed the January 2015 newsroom massacre at the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and a Kosher grocery store that left 17 dead. But the complex planning behind the Nov. 13 attacks and the high number of deaths revealed a degree of French vulnerability not previously suspected by authorities.

Neighboring Belgium, the starting point of the attacks in Paris, was hit a few months later on March 22 with attacks on its airport and a metro station that killed 32 people.