Belgium Holds ‘Man in Hat’ Suspect From Airport Bombingby
Both known surviving Brussels suspects now in police custody
Prosecutor says Abrini dumped jacket in trash bin, sold hat
Belgium said that Mohamed Abrini, dubbed the “man in the hat” from security videos, has confessed to being the third member of the terrorist squad that struck Brussels airport on March 22.
Abrini and a man identified as Osama K., an alleged accomplice of the Brussels subway station suicide bomber, were arrested on Friday as Belgian police continued to chip away at a jihadist network operating out of safe houses in Brussels.
Abrini was also sought in connection with the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, making him a central figure in a network of Islamic State operatives that has spawned fears of a wave of terrorism across Europe.
“After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in an e-mail late Saturday.
The investigation into the blasts at the Brussels airport and downtown subway station, which killed 32, kicked into a higher gear after police on Thursday released security videos that traced the path out of the airport of the man now known to be Abrini.
After shepherding two suicide bombers toward the check-in counters, the so-called “man in the hat” planted a bomb that failed to detonate immediately and left the scene, according to prosecutors. Surveillance cameras spotted him on a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) stroll toward central Brussels before the trail went dark near European Union headquarters.
Abrini dumped his light-colored jacket in a garbage bin and later sold the hat, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
As Abrini escaped, a suicide bomber accompanied by Osama K. struck at the Maelbeek subway station between the main EU buildings and the city’s historic center, according to prosecutors.
Two others arrested on Friday were charged with offering assistance to Abrini and Osama K. They were identified as Hervé B.M., a 25-year-old citizen of Rwanda, and Bilal E.M, 27, whose nationality wasn’t given.
Two other people detained Friday were released. Police on Saturday raided another suspected hideout near a former military barracks in Brussels but “no weapons or explosives were found,” the prosecutor’s office said.