Belgium Hunts Third Airport Bomber as Death Toll Increases

Brussels: What It Could Mean for Airport Security
  • Police post security footage of man in white coat and hat
  • Suspect charged in Brussels attacks released from custody

Belgian police, trying to identify a suspect seen with two suicide bombers at the Brussels airport, released video footage of the unknown man in an appeal for information about him as the death toll increased in last week’s terrorist attacks.

Another suspect, whom Belgian media had reported may have been the third bomber at the airport, was released from custody on Monday, the federal prosecutors office in Brussels said. The clues that led to the arrest of this suspect -- identified as Faycal C. -- were not supported by further investigation, according to a statement.

QuickTake Fighting Islamic State

The surveillance-camera video posted on the website of the federal police on Monday shows a man in a white jacket and wearing a hat and glasses, pushing a luggage cart next to the two bombers who blew themselves up in the March 22 assaults. The video, about 30 seconds long, includes a slowed-down segment and close-ups of the man’s head.

The other two airport attackers have been identified as Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who was deported from Turkey last year on suspicions of planning to cross to Syria, and Najim Laachraoui, who was also sought in connection with the Paris attacks in November. The suicide blasts ripped through the departures hall at the airport in Zaventem. Officials there are testing repair work and temporary arrangements before making a decision on when to re-open the terminal to passengers, even on a partial basis.

Check-In System

If the tests on the temporary check-in system are successful, the airport could resume operations on Wednesday with reduced capacity, Belga newswire reported, citing a spokesman for the airport. The provisional system will be able to handle 800 passengers an hour, compared with the normal capacity of 5,000, according to the spokesman.

The man identified as Faycal C. had been apprehended Thursday evening in the Belgian capital and was charged with terrorist murder and being part of a terrorist group in connection with the March 22 assaults, federal prosecutors said on Saturday. He was released by the investigating magistrate on Monday.

With Brussels trying to get back to normal over the long Easter weekend, the Belgian Health Ministry on Monday said the number of victims of the twin attacks -- the one at the airport and another on the city’s subway -- increased to 35 after four people died in the hospital. The Maelbeek subway station, scene of the second bombing, remains closed to commuters but trains are able to pass through.

Meanwhile, Belgium’s national soccer team planned to hold a minute of silence on Tuesday in honor of the victims before a friendly match against Portugal. The game was moved to Leiria, Portugal, from Brussels following the terrorist attacks.

A small crowd gathered around the temporary memorial to victims at the stock-exchange building in downtown Brussels, the scene of demonstrations on Sunday that led to 10 arrests. Most shops and restaurants were open as usual in the downtown area on Easter Monday, and cafe-goers sitting on outside terraces on the Grand’Place, the city’s historic central square, seemed to belie fears of more attacks by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Brussels atrocities.

As terrorism probes expanded in Belgium and neighboring countries, officials in Brussels charged three suspects -- identified as Yassine A., de Mohamed B. and de Aboubaker O. -- with participating in a terrorist group, the federal prosecutors office said on Monday. The charges followed police raids in several parts of the country on Sunday.

Falsified Documents

Counter-terrorism arrests also were made in Italy and the Netherlands over the weekend, as investigations advanced across Europe. Belgian prosecutors said an Algerian man arrested by Italian police is suspected of participating in a ring that produced falsified documents used by some of participants in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and “probably also by Salah Abdeslam,” the only surviving suspect in those assaults.

The prosecutors are looking into whether the counterfeiters also provided fake documents to the bombers who struck the Belgian capital. The Algerian suspect, detained in Salerno on Saturday under a European arrest warrant requested by Belgium, was identified by Ansa news agency as Djamal Eddine Ouali.

Dutch police on Sunday arrested a 32-year-old Frenchman in Rotterdam on suspicion of involvement in planning a terrorist attack, Belga reported, citing prosecutors.

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