Brussels airport attack fugitive "likely" among arrests, media say

A suspect who had been sought by police for months in connection with the November terrorist attacks in Paris has been arrested, and "more than likely" is the bomber who fled a later attack on the Brussels airport, Belgian media reported Friday.

Federal prosecutors confirmed in a statement that "several arrests" had been made in connection with the Brussels attacks, but did not immediately give any more details. More information was expected to emerge from a press conference, scheduled for 9:30 pm (1930 GMT).

Before then, the Belgian national security council is due to meet, the Belga news agency reported. It includes Prime Minister Charles Michel, police chiefs and intelligence services, as well as the country's coordinating unit for threat analysis, OCAM.

"Congratulations and thank you to all those who enabled the arrest of two presumed terrorists," the Belgian royal palace wrote on Twitter, without giving details.

Mohamed Abrini had been the subject of an international arrest warrant since November, after police found video footage of him driving a Renault Clio car that was later used in the Paris attacks.

Surveillance cameras had recorded him together with Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam at a gas station in northern France two days before the attacks in the French capital, which left 130 dead.

Investigators so far had not publicly made a link between Abrini and the Brussels attacks, which left 32 people dead at the Belgian capital's airport and Maelbeek underground station.

Three suicide bombers also died in the March 22 attacks, while a fourth suspect fled after leaving an explosive device at the airport.

The fugitive came to be known as "the man with the hat," based on video surveillance images of him. Belgian prosecutors asked for the public's help on Thursday in gathering more evidence about the man. They gave no indication of knowing his identity at the time.

The Belgian broadcasters VRT and RTBF both said on Friday that Abrini's DNA had been found in the apartment which the airport attackers had set off from, adding that he "more than likely" was the man with the hat.

The broadcasters also reported that a second man was arrested on Friday who is believed to have had contact with the suicide bomber who targeted the Maelbeek station.

They identified the suspect as Osama Krayem, a Swedish national who allegedly bought the bags used for the airport bombs.

"We refer all queries to the Belgian authorities," said Sirpa Franzen, a spokeswoman for Swedish security police Sapo.

The DNA of Krayem, who has reportedly also gone by the name of Naim al-Hamed, was also found in the apartment the airport attackers had set off from, according to RTBF and VRT.

Friday's arrests took place in the Brussels neighbourhood of Anderlecht, VRT said.

Police had described Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian national, as "dangerous and probably armed." His brother died in Syria after joining the Islamic State extremist group, the Belga news agency reported.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Last update: Fri, 08/04/2016 - 22:50
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