*Brussels attackers initially planned to target Paris
- “I am the man in the hat” – Abrini
- 4 charged with terrorism offences over attacks
- Prime Minister says government will remain vigilant
What is happening?
The planners behind the March 22 bombings in Brussels which killed 32 people had initially planned to attack Paris but struck closer to home as investigators made arrests among key suspects, Belgian prosecutors said on Sunday (April 10).
A man held on terrorism charges in Belgium has admitted to being the “man in the hat” seen in CCTV footage at Brussels Airport on the day of last month’s attacks.
Prosecutors say Belgian national Mohammed Abrini admitted he was the man police had been hunting since the bombings on March 22.
Abrini, who has been in custody since Friday evening, was confronted with the footage and admitted it was him.
Prosecutors say he threw his white coat in a rubbish bin and sold the distinctive hat.
“He is charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murder,” the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Why is Abrini in custody?
Mohamed Abrini: le suspect-clef des attentats de Paris arrêté à Bruxelles
RTL</a>#France <a href="https://t.co/1RkxF0AdMk">https://t.co/1RkxF0AdMk</a> <a href="https://t.co/KaI5t6FURa">pic.twitter.com/KaI5t6FURa</a></p>— Fawkes (Fawkes_Family) April 8, 2016
Mohammed Abrini had been on Europe’s most-wanted list since December.
He was seen on CCTV footage at a motorway service station with suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam two days before last November’s events in Paris.
A second man, identified as Osama K, has also been charged with terrorism offences.
The 23-year-old has been identified by the media as a Swedish national who grew up in Malmo.
Also known as Naim al Hamed, officials say he can be seen on CCTV footage from just before the metro attack on March 22.
Two further arrests
- Bilal El Makhoukhi
- Herve B.M. (Rwandan national)
They have been charged with aiding Abrini and Osama K.
What they are saying
“He had no other choice” – Spokesperson for Belgium’s public prosecutor.
“We are positive about the recent developments in the investigation. But we know we have to stay alert and cautious.” – Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says the government will remain vigilant.
The arrest of Mohamed Abrini is a long-awaited and much-needed break for Belgian authorities. https://t.co/6ZhvqOpS6p— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) April 9, 2016