Belgium terror suspect ID’d as ‘man in hat’ at airport
BRUSSELS – Mohamed Abrini has been positively identified as the third suspect in the Brussels Airport attack March 22, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
The office said in a statement that Abrini, the so-called “man in the hat,” confessed to having thrown away his vest in a garbage bin, and said he sold his hat afterward.
Abrini, who was arrested on Friday, has been tied through surveillance video and DNA to last November’s terror attacks on Paris, which left 130 people dead.
Belgian authorities also announced Saturday that they’ve formally identified the second person seen in surveillance footage from the attack at the Brussels metro, part of coordinated terror attacks on the city that killed 32 people March 22.
Osama Krayem — also known as Naim al Hamed — is seen along side eventual suicide bomber Khalid El Bakraoui, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
A French source close to the investigation into ISIS’ terror network in France and Belgium told CNN that European security agencies believe Krayem, or Hamed, played an operational role in the attack.
Krayem, who was one of six terror suspects taken into custody Friday around Belgium, has been charged with “participation to the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murders,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Belgium has emerged as a hotbed of extremism, exporting more foreign fighters per capita to Syria than any other Western European nation, according to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.
The London-based think tank said the Brussels attack — as well as the ones in November in Paris that killed 130 — “point to a broad and sophisticated terrorist network in Belgium.”
Belgium suspect linked to Paris attacks
Also arrested on Friday was Mohamed Abrini, who was detained with two others in an operation in Anderlecht, Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Thierry Werts told reporters on Friday.
Abrini has been tied through surveillance video and DNA to the Paris attacks.
One theory among authorities is that Abrini was the lone survivor in the attack on the airport — the man in a hat shown in surveillance video rolling luggage carts with two men now thought to be suicide bombers.
The two other suspects arrested in Friday’s raids, 27-year-old Bilal Al Makhoukhi, and a Rwandan national identified as Hervé B.M. — are accused of helping Abrini and Krayem. Both have been charged with “participation to the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murders,” according to the prosecutor.
It is not clear if the remaining two detained, neither of whom have been named, have been or will be charged.
Fresh round of raids
On Saturday, witnesses said about 50 police officers descended on an apartment in the Brussels neighborhood of Etterbeek.
Authorities said they suspected the apartment of being a safe house, but Saturday’s search turned up no weapons or explosives, the prosecutor’s office said.