Progress Made in Brussels Terrorist Probe as More Attacks Feared

  • Algerian man arrested in Italy; suspect charged in Brussels
  • Johnny Hallyday goes ahead with Brussels performances

Investigators made progress in the probe of the terrorist bombings in Brussels as Belgian authorities charged a suspect in the March 22 suicide blasts and Italy arrested an Algerian man in connection with the case.

Amid fears of further attacks by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Brussels atrocities, Belgian federal prosecutors said a man identified as Faycal C. was charged with terrorist murder and being part of a terrorist group on Saturday. Three other suspects have been charged with terrorism offenses in Brussels, two in connection with a foiled plot in France and one in an unspecified case.

Italian anti-terrorism police meanwhile arrested an Algerian man suspected of making fake identity documents for attackers in the Brussels and Paris massacres, Italian media reported. The suspect, Djamal Eddine Ouali, was detained in Salerno on Saturday under a European arrest warrant requested by Belgium, Ansa news agency said. German police earlier arrested two men in connection with the Brussels attacks, Spiegel reported.

As Brussels sought to return to normality over the long Easter weekend, developments in the Middle East were adding to risks of further attacks. Syrian government forces retook the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State on Sunday after weeks of fighting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website. Such setbacks on the battlefield are driving Islamic State to escalate its offensive against civilians in Europe, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday during a visit to Brussels.

Even if the terrorism network behind the attacks in Paris and Brussels “is being wiped out, there’s still a threat weighing on us,” French President Francois Hollande warned on Friday.

Security Cameras

In Brussels, the suspect Faycal C. may have been the man in a cream-colored jacket seen on security cameras at the Brussels airport at the time of the bombing in the departures hall, according to Le Soir newspaper. He was one of three suspects taken into custody outside the prosecutor’s office on Thursday.

As the city tried to get back to normal after the worst terrorist attack in Belgium’s history, organizers canceled a commemoration service that had been planned for Sunday in central Brussels at the request of Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur. “The priority is to let the police do their work in the best possible circumstances,” Jambon said.

While singer Mariah Carey canceled a concert planned for Sunday in Brussels, French singer Johnny Hallyday went ahead with shows scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in the Belgian capital, at a venue not far from the city’s iconic Atomium sculpture. Hallyday ended his Saturday performance in front of some 11,000 people with a song by Belgium’s own Jacques Brel, SoirMag reported. Another 8,000 people are expected to attend Sunday’s performance, it said.

Check-In Desks

The Brussels airport, where 11 people were killed in the bombings, will remain closed until at least Tuesday as investigators continue to assess the damage to its departure hall. Authorities said on Saturday that a preliminary investigation showed the main building and the connector building, where hand luggage and passengers are checked in, are structurally stable and that the airport may install temporary check-in desks.

The Maelbeek subway station, scene of the other suicide blast, remained shut to commuters but trains were able to pass through without stopping.

A total of 31 people died in the twin blasts at the airport and the subway and 340 people were injured, authorities confirmed on Saturday. Four of the dead haven’t yet been identified and 101 of the injured remain hospitalized, according to the Crisis Center. Belgium’s Foreign Ministry said one of the victims was former Belgian ambassador to the U.S. Andre Adam.

In Brussels, a suspect identified as Abderamane A. was charged on Sunday with participating in activities of a terrorist group in connection with the investigation of a plot in France, according to Belga news agency. Another suspect, identified as Rabah N., was charged on Saturday with participating in terrorist activities in the French case, which earlier saw the arrest of Reda Kriket in Argenteuil, France, according to the Belgian prosecutor. Abderamane A. was shot and apprehended on Friday at a tram stop in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels.

Another suspect, identified as Abubakar A., was charged with terrorist activities in an unspecified case, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

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