Belgium prosecutor: Paris suspect admits to being Brussels airport 'man in hat'

Abrini, wanted for November's Islamic State attacks in Paris, was among five people arrested in Brussels on Friday.

By REUTERS
April 9, 2016 20:40
2 minute read.
Photo of suspect released by Belgian Police

Photo of suspect in Brussels airport attack released by Belgian Police. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Belgium's federal prosecutor said on Saturday that Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini admitted to being the "man in the hat" seen accompanying two suicide bombers at Brussels airport on March 22.

"We confronted him with the video evidence prepared by our special unit," a spokesman for the prosecutors' office said. "He had to admit it was him."

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Abrini, wanted for November's Islamic State attacks in Paris, was among five people arrested in Brussels on Friday, Belgian prosecutors said, adding that he was also tied to last month's Brussels bombings.

The arrests mark a signal success for Belgian security services, which have faced fierce criticism at home and abroad since Brussels-based militants organized the attacks that killed 130 in Paris on Nov. 13 and 32 at home four months later.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon, who offered to resign over the failure to arrest one of the suicide bombers months ago, tweeted congratulations to those involved in the arrests.

The arrests came a day after police issued new images and detail on the "man in the hat". They follow the arrest in Brussels on March 18 of a key surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam. He was seen driving with Abrini towards Paris two days before the attacks in the French capital.

Four days after Abdeslam was arrested, the brothers Brahim and Khalid El Bakraoui and a third local man, Najim Laachraoui, set off bombs that killed 32 people at Brussels airport and on a metro line running under European Union institutions.

Another suspect held on Friday may be a man seen with Khalid Bakraoui at a metro station shortly before Bakraoui blew himself up on a train on the same line downtown.

Prosecutors named him as Osama K, adding he had used the false name Naim al-Hamed. Prosecutors said he had also been caught on CCTV buying holdalls at a downtown mall that were later used in the Brussels bombings.

Osama K. was identified by police near Ulm in Germany some weeks before the Paris attacks in a car rented by Salah Abdeslam, prosecutors said. They did not confirm reports that he was a Swede named Osama Krayem, a former fighter in Syria who may have returned to Europe along with other militants among refugees who reached the Greek island of Leros in September.

Abrini was arrested in the borough of Anderlecht, local media said, next to the western district of Molenbeek, which has been at the heart of Belgium's troubles with Islamist militants.







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