Who Is Faycal Cheffou? Belgian Media Thinks He's 'The Man In The Hat'
Belgian authorities have reportedly detained a man in connection with Tuesday's bombing attack at the Brussels airport and a nearby metro station. According to Belgian media reports, authorities have charged Faycal Cheffou with "terrorist murder," alleging that he is the third bomber in Tuesday's bloody assault that killed 31 people and injured almost 300. The BBC reported that Cheffou was arrested on Thursday following a series of raids in Brussels, and authorities did not uncover any weapons after searching his home.
Authorities have yet to confirm if Cheffou is the third suspect shown in the security footage released to the public hours after Tuesday's airport and metro bombings. Several Belgian news outlets, including the newspaper Le Soir, have identified Cheffou as the third man in the footage, who wears a black bucket hat and pushes a dolly holding baggage allegedly containing explosives; it is unclear at this time if Cheffou is that suspect seen in the video. The other two suspects in the footage are believed to be suicide bombers who died in the attack.
According to The New York Times, Cheffou is an independent freelance journalist. An online video from 2014 has surfaced, showing Cheffou standing in front of a detention center for refugees in Steenokkerzeel, a municipality outside of Brussels. In the video, Cheffou reportedly criticizes the Belgian government.
Le Soir, a Belgian paper, reported that Cheffou has been under watch by Brussels authorities over the past few months, and that the mayor of Brussels knew about his "radical" activity. Cheffou was recognized on Thursday by a taxi driver, who believed he had a resemblance to the man in the bucket hat seen in the surveillance footage recorded moments before Tuesday's airport bombing, Le Soir reported. However, Belgian authorities have yet to confirm if Cheffou is indeed the third suspect wearing a bucket hat in the video footage.
In the 2014 video noted by The New York Times, which is posted on YouTube, Cheffou reports that Muslim refugees and asylum seekers being held in the detention center were being fed meals even though they were fasting for Ramadan. Cheffou criticized the Belgian government for disrespecting the refugees' observance of the religious holiday and forcing them to break their fast. Cheffou alleges in the video that these actions of the Belgian government are violations of human rights.
According to the Washington Post, Cheffou may have a history of trying to recruit and "radicalize" Muslim refugees seeking asylum in Belgium. The independent journalist was reportedly arrested in the past for recruiting refugees in a public park and ordered to stop his recruitment.