Belgian investigators have finally identified the mysterious “man in the hat” — the third man in video footage that showed the two suicide bombers who blew up Zaventem International Airport in Brussels last month.
Authorities said that Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini, who is in custody, admitted to being the man in the photo with the two terrorists.
“After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene,” Belgian federal prosecutors told reporters Saturday.
Abrini, 31, was also the last identified suspect at large from the Nov. 13 massacre in Paris. He was one of four suspects charged Saturday with “participating in terrorist acts” in connection with the March 22 suicide bombings in Brussels. The attacks on the city’s international airport and metro system killed 32 people and wounded 270 others.
According to Belgian federal prosecutors, Abrini was detained Friday in a raid carried out in Brussels. He told police that he threw away his white vest in a garbage bin, and sold the hat that was seen in the footage. His fingerprints were found in France in a car used by the Paris attackers, and in Brussels, in an apartment used by the airport bombers.
A Belgian-Moroccan petty criminal known to police, Abrini was a childhood friend of Paris terror suspect brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam. He also had ties to the group’s ringleader, Abdelhamid Abbaoud, who died in a shootout with French police shortly after the massacre.
While Brahim Abdeslam died in Paris as a suicide bomber on Nov. 13, his brother Salah had second thoughts and fled instead; he returned to Brussels and hid in his old neighborhood for the next four months. He was arrested on March 18, four days before the attack on the airport and metro system.
The fact that the two bombers were together with a terror suspect intimately connected with the Nov. 13 Paris massacre only reinforces the reality that Da’esh (ISIS) has succeeded in establishing a tightly woven network of terrorists in major cities across the European continent.
Further reinforcing that point is the arrest of Osama Krayem, who left Malmo, Sweden, to fight with Da’esh in Syria. He is accused of being the No. 2 terrorist in the March 22 bombing of the Brussels metro station, killing 16 people. He is also accused of being at a shopping mall where the luggage used in the bombing of the airport was purchased.
A Rwandan nation, Herve B.M. was arrested at the same time as Osama Krayem and allegedly offered assistance to him and Abrini, prosecutors said.
Belgium is still maintaining a second-highest terror alert, because “there are perhaps other cells that are still active on our territory,” Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told RTL television on Saturday.
A total of 162 people have been murdered in Europe by Da’esh (ISIS) in less than half a year. Most of the operatives responsible for the murders have had connections in Belgium and/or France, as well as Syria.
Hana Levi Julian