Saturday 1 October 2016

Mysterious 'man in the hat' among three arrested over Brussels attacks

Published 26/03/2016 | 17:02

Faycal C
Faycal C
Masked Belgian police in Brussels this week. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
People gather at a street memorial in Brussels following the bombings in Brussels
Belgian police take up position behind a car, in this still image taken from amateur video, to apprehend a suspect on a tramway platform in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek, following Tuesday's bombings in Brussels, Belgium
Belgian police drag a suspect along a tramway platform, in this still image taken from amateur video, after the suspect was shot, in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek

Three men have been charged with terrorist offences linked to attacks on the Brussels airport and subway.

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Federal prosecutors have charged a man identified as Faycal C for "involvement in a terrorist group, terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder" following the attacks in the Belgian capital, which killed 31 people and injured another 270.

Officials say he was arrested on Thursday, but a police raid on his home found no weapons or explosives.

He is reported to be the mysterious 'man in the hat' in CCTV footage taken at the airport moments before the blasts.

Meanwhile, organisers have postponed Sunday's march for solidarity in Belgium after a police appeal.

Belgian media are reporting that a man named Faycal Cheffou has been identified has the suspected fugitive pictured in a light-coloured jacket who fled Brussels Airport after two alleged accomplices blew themselves up there on Tuesday.

Prosecutors refused to comment on those reports, but did say that two other suspects arrested on Thursday and identified as Rabah N and Aboubakar A have been charged with "involvement in the activities of a terrorist group."

A fourth man, taken into custody on Friday after he was shot by police at a Brussels tram stop, is being held for at least 24 hours longer.

The developments come as Brussels airport officials moved to assess the damage caused by twin explosions at the terminal on Tuesday.

Authorities have wrapped up their investigation of the crime scene at the airport, and will allow engineers into the building to check its structural safety and information technology systems - and whether any damage can be repaired quickly.

Brussels Airport, which handles 23.5 million passengers annually, said it would be Tuesday at the earliest before flights resume.

Authorities believe both the Brussels attacks and the November 13 bombings in Paris that killed 130 people were plotted from Belgium.

Heavily armed police swept into Brussels neighbourhoods on Friday in operations linked to the attacks. Signs of a large police operation remained visible on Saturday at the tram station in Schaerbeek district in Brussels, where a man was shot.

The man, who was sitting with a young girl and holding a bag, was ordered by police "to put the bag far from him". After he did so, police shot him twice.

Earlier, Belgium's interior minister appealed to residents not to rally in solidarity for the victims of Tuesday's attacks, saying police are too stretched with their investigations.

Jan Jambon stopped short of calling for the Sunday's rally to be cancelled, although he "invited citizens not to have this demonstration".

He added: "We understand fully the emotions. We understand that everyone wants to express these feelings."

The cancelled march was set to take place from the Place de la Bourse in Brussels to the city's Gare du Nord.

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