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Is charged Brussels suspect Fayçal C mystery airport 'man in the hat'?

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Is charged Brussels suspect Fayçal C mystery airport 'man in the hat'?


Is the man charged in Belgium on Saturday with “terrorist murder” the “man in the hat” filmed at Brussels airport with the two suicide bombers?

Belgian media quoting unnamed police sources have identified him as Fayçal Cheffou, saying he probably is the man seen in CCTV footage wearing a hat and a light-coloured jacket, pushing luggage trolleys along with the two others.

However the information has not been confirmed by prosecutors. They have simply named the accused man as Fayçal C, and say he was detained outside the federal prosecutor’s office on Thursday.

He is believed to have been with two other men – who were also held but have since been released – in a car.

Prosecutors have charged Fayçal C with taking part in the activities of a terrorist group, and actual and attempted terrorist murder.

No weapons or explosives were uncovered during a search of the suspect’s home, reportedly just a few hundred metres from EU institutions in central Brussels.

More arrests and charges

Police in southern Italy have reportedly arrested an Algerian man suspected of having produced false documents for militants connected to the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Djamal Eddine Ouali, 40, was arrested by anti-terrorism police in Belizzi, a small town near Salerno, according to Italian media. He is said to be the subject of an arrest warrant issued by Belgian authorities after his name was found in documents in a raid in Brussels, reports said.

In total nine people have been arrested in Belgium as investigations continue to uncover extremist networks acting in the name of Islam, in the wake of the Brussels attacks.

Two other men along with Fayçal C were charged on Saturday, with terrorist activities and membership of a terrorist group.

The authorities said a man arrested on Friday at a tram stop at Schaerbeek, a district of Brussels, was being held for a further 24 hours. He was identified as Abderamane A. The operation in which he and two others were detained was linked to the arrest near Paris of a man named as Reda Kriket. French police said his arrest had helped foil a terrorist plot to attack France.

The Fayçal question

One source close to the inquiry in Belgium told the AFP news agency it was a “hypothesis” that Fayçal C was the man caught on the airport’s security camera as he accompanied the suicide bombers, shortly before the dual bomb blasts in the check-in hall last Tuesday.

The man, named as Fayçal Cheffou by Belgian media including Le Soir newspaper, was identified by the taxi driver who took them to the airport.

He left the area without detonating the third bomb, which was later blown up in a controlled explosion.

Fayçal Cheffou is described as a journalist in Belgian media reports, which say he recorded a video in 2014 in which he complained about the treatment of Muslim detainees in a centre for asylum seekers near Brussels.

Le Soir quotes the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, as saying that Cheffou had been banned from a city park after repeatedly approaching asylum seekers camped there in an attempt to recruit them for radical movements. The mayor reportedly tried but failed to get legal authorities to take action.

More security failures

With the city still on high alert, there are increasing signs that the same extremist network was behind both the attacks in Brussels and those in November in Paris that killed 130 people.

Meanwhile the Belgian authorities face still more questions about numerous security failures – and there have been calls from German lawmakers for Europe urgently to improve its intelligence sharing.

The French newspaper Le Monde claims to have seen transcripts of interviews carried out by Belgian authorities with Salah Abdeslam in the 48-hour period following his arrest. It accuses investigators of failing to press the Paris suspect about the extremist network’s plans in Brussels – thus missing a chance to glean information that could have prevented the attacks.

Among other lapses, it is claimed that a local Belgian police officer knew of Abdeslam’s likely lair in Brussels – but that the information was not passed on to federal authorities.

Turkey’s accusations that Belgian and Dutch authorities failed to act on tip-offs about the return of Ibrahim El Bakraoui following his deportation led two Belgian government ministers to offer to resign. The extremist went on to become one of the suicide bombers at Brussels airport.

Victims’ identification

According to figures released by Belgian authorities on Saturday, of more than 300 people injured in the bombings, more than 100 remain in hospital.

Meanwhile the process of identifying the 31 people who died goes on.

“Among those 31 we have the three bombers so there were 28 bodies left to identify, and from those 28 we have identified 24 of them… And among those 24 we have 11 foreign victims and 13 Belgian citizens,” said Brussels prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Ine Van Wymersch.

An American husband and wife missing since the attacks have been confirmed to have died in the bombings.

Justin and Stephanie Shults, Belgium residents originally from Tennessee and Kentucky, were last seen dropping off her mother at Brussels airport shortly before the blasts.

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