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Man in hat in Brussels airport attack is in custody, Belgium says

Belgian police officers stood guard in a street in Etterbeek while their colleagues searched a warehouse in connection with terrorism arrests in Belgium on Saturday.
THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images
Belgian police officers stood guard in a street in Etterbeek while their colleagues searched a warehouse in connection with terrorism arrests in Belgium on Saturday.

PARIS — The man in the hat who accompanied the two suicide bombers who detonated their bags at Brussels Airport on March 22 has been identified as Mohamed Abrini, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said Saturday.

Abrini was seen in a surveillance image walking away from the airport after the explosions, according to investigators.

Abrini was detained Friday in Brussels and was charged Saturday with participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murder.

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Abrini was determined to be directly involved in the explosions at Brussels Airport, the prosecutor’s office said.

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“After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene,” the office announced in its statement. “He explained having thrown away his vest in a garbage bin and having sold his hat afterward.”

The arrest of Abrini and his confession is a major breakthrough in the case, and, if followed by further information, it could help investigators identify the rest of the Islamic State network in Belgium and France.

Abrini is also suspected of providing logistical support for the Nov. 13 attacks in and around Paris that killed 130 people, the prosecutors said. Until Friday, Abrini was the only known suspect in the Paris attacks who had not been killed or captured.

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Mohamed Abrini

Abrini, 31, according to the prosecutor’s office, now says he was at the attack at Brussels Airport, which killed 15 people and the two suicide bombers. He remained in Belgium at least for part of the time between the two attacks, officials say.