Wednesday 7 December 2016

Belgian police appeal for help to find 'man in hat' bomb suspect

Carole DeBlanc in Brussels

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

A photo taken during a press conference at the headquarters of the Federal Prosecutor in Brussels shows a scene from video footage showing the suspect pushing a cart at Brussels Airport just before the bomb attack. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A photo taken during a press conference at the headquarters of the Federal Prosecutor in Brussels shows a scene from video footage showing the suspect pushing a cart at Brussels Airport just before the bomb attack. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Belgian detectives have launched a public appeal seeking any information on the "man in hat" suspect in the Brussels Airport suicide bombings that killed 16 people.

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Belgian Federal Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said authorities were especially interested in any people who might have filmed or photographed the man.

He was seen at the airport with two suicide bombers before they died in the March 22 attacks.

A subsequent explosion at Brussels' Maelbeek metro station killed another 16 people the same morning.

New photos released yesterday by police showed the "man in hat" brazenly leaving the airport on foot, walking to the nearby town of Zaventem and then into Brussels, where all traces of him were then suddenly reportedly lost.

The suspect also wore a white jacket but discarded it at some point, prosecutors said.

The appeal for public assistance more than two weeks after the suicide bombings indicated that investigators have hit a standstill.

Three bombers, two at the airport and one in the metro, also died in the attacks, which were claimed by Isil.

According to a video reconstitution of the suspect's itinerary presented to reporters, the man left the Brussels Airport terminal at 7.58am before two other men he was with in the building exploded suitcases laden with explosives. He passed by a Sheraton hotel, walked through the town of Zaventem, discarded his jacket, and was seen on video footage at Meiser square in north-eastern Brussels at 9.42am.

Eight minutes later, his trail vanishes.

Belgian authorities are hoping that they or someone finds the discarded light-coloured jacket, saying it could yield precious clues.

Federal prosecutor Thierry Werts also said there had been many people around the hotel when the suspect walked by who may now be overseas, and asked for their assistance as well.

Prosecutors asked "people who might have filmed or taken a photograph of the suspect or think they can provide extra information" to call a special telephone number.

In a video to accompany their appeal, investigators indicate the route the man took, out of the airport, through the nearby town of Zaventem and along a main road into the city.

His last appearance on security cameras was in the district of Schaerbeek almost an hour after the bombing.

Along the way, he took off his light-coloured coat and was then seen in a light blue shirt with dark patches. He was wearing a dark hat throughout.

"It is especially the coat which interests us," prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told a news conference, asking if anyone might have seen it along the suspect's route.

Prosecutors also want to people to come forward who might have filmed or taken a photograph of the suspect or may be able to determine where he went.

Twin bombs at Brussels Airport and another on the city's metro killed 32 people, excluding the suspected bombers. A controlled explosion destroyed a third bomb at the airport about six hours after the initial attack.

Irish Independent

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