Belgian Prosecutors Say Suspect Admits He Was 'Man in Hat' in Brussels Airport Bombing

Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan, was arrested on Friday and has allegedly confessed to being the fugitive wanted in connection with March 22 attack.
April 9, 2016, 5:55pm
(Image via Olivier Hoslet/EPA)

Belgian prosecutors said on Saturday that detained terrorism suspect Mohamed Abrini has admitted that he is the "man in the hat" wanted in connection with the bombing last month at the Brussels airport.

Abrini was one of several suspects arrested on Friday amid the ongoing investigation into the bombings on March 22 in the Belgian capital.

A spokesperson for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said on Friday that a total of five people had been arrested in two separate police operations. The spokesperson confirmed that Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan, was arrested on Square Albert, in Anderlecht, along with the two people who have not been identified. The prosecutor's office said on Saturday that when Abrini was confronted by investigators, he "confessed his presence at the crime scene" at the Brussels airport.

The spokesperson said that Abrini's DNA and fingerprints had been found in several hideouts used by terror suspects in the city, including apartments on Rue Max Roos and Rue Henri Bergé, in Schaerbeek. His fingerprints and DNA were also found inside a car used in the November 13 Paris attacks. Abrini, the spokesman added, helped rent one of the rooms used to house the attackers on the eve of their brutal rampage.

Prior to his alleged confession, investigators had been trying to determine whether Abrini was the third bomber in the Brussels airport attack, dubbed "the man in the hat" by the media. The suspect — who was spotted on airport CCTV wearing a conspicuous dark-colored sun hat — fled the scene, leaving behind an unexploded third bomb.

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Abrini had been on the run since November, when Belgian police issued an international arrest warrant against him. Abrini — who was known to police for drug and theft offenses — was caught on CCTV at a gas station in the north of Paris, two days before the November 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in and around the French capital. With him was Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested on March 18 during a police raid in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek for his role in the Paris attacks. Last week, Belgian officials approved the extradition of Abdeslam to France.

According to French daily Libération, Abrini — a friend of Abdeslam and of his brother Brahim, who blew himself up outside a Paris bar on November 13 — was last seen on the night of November 13, in a bar in Molenbeek.

Abrini is believed to have traveled to Syria. His younger brother Souleymane was killed in Syria in 2014 after spending eight months there fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State.

Thursday, officials in Belgium released new footage of the third bomber, and asked the public to come forward with any information that could help lead investigators to him.

The spokesman also said that a man named Osama K. — also known as Naïm Al Hamed — was arrested on Friday morning in the city, along with another man, identified only as Hervé B.M.

An investigation is currently underway to determine whether Osama K. is the man spotted in the Brussels subway near suicide bomber Khalid el-Bakraoui, moments before he detonated his bomb on March 22.

According to the prosecutor's office, Osama K. may have been caught on CCTV footage in a Brussels mall purchasing the bags later used to hide the airport bombs.

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