Mohamed Abrini, wanted for Nov.’s IS attacks in Paris, was among 5 people who were arrested in Brussels on Friday, said the Belgian prosecutors adding that Abrini was linked to last month’s Brussels bombings.
They also said that they were checking whether Abrini was the “man in the hat” that was seen on the security footage at the Brussels airport on 22nd March with 2 suicide bombers. The Belgium’s public broadcasters said that it was “more than likely” that he was.
The arrests mark a pointer in success for the Belgian security services that faced fierce criticism at home & abroad since the Brussels-based militants systematized attacks that killed over 120 in Paris on November 13.
Jan Jambon, the Interior Minister, who had offered to resign over failure to arrest 1 of the suicide bombers months ago, tweeted hats off to those involved in arrests.
However, there wasn’t any change in national security alert level & Minister Jambon added: “The struggle against terrorism goes on.”
The arrests came almost a day after the police had issued new images & detail on the “man in the hat”. They follow the arrest in Brussels on 18th March of a main surviving suspect in Paris attacks, named Salah Abdeslam. He was seen driving with M. Abrini towards Paris 2 days beforehand the attacks in French capital.
Another suspect who held on Friday may be a man who was seen with Khalid Bakraoui at metro station just before Bakraoui blew himself up on train on the same line downtown.
The Prosecutors named him as Osama K, adding that he had used false name Naim al-Hamed. He had also been caught on the CCTV buying holdalls at down-town mall, which were then used the Brussels bombings.
Abrini’s DNA & fingerprints were found in 2 Brussels apartments, which was later found to have been used as bomb-making factory.
The man in the hat had left the airport shortly after suicide bombings & was tracked on the CCTV for several miles into city center. Investigators on Thursday had released new video footage of him & had insisted people to look for his discarded coat.