Who Is Mohamed Abrini? Belgian Authorities Identify Third Suspect In Brussels Airport Bombings
Belgian authorities announced Saturday that they've positively identified and arrested the third suspect in the Brussels Airport bombings that killed 32 people and injured hundreds more. The Belgian federal prosecutor's office identified the third bombing suspect, seen wearing a hat in the airport surveillance footage, as Mohamed Abrini, a 31-year-old resident of Molenbeek, a predominantly Muslim municipality of Brussels. Abrini was arrested on Friday during another bout of raids orchestrated across Brussels.
Although news of Abrini's arrest broke on Friday, Belgian authorities did not positively identify the 31-year-old suspect until Saturday. The federal prosecutor's office released a statement saying Abrini had admitted to being the third man — the "man in the hat" — in the surveillance footage that played on television screens across the globe following the deadly March 22 attacks.
The Belgian federal prosecutor's office said Saturday in a statement:
After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene. [Abrini] explained having thrown away his vest in a garbage bin and having sold his hat afterwards.
Abrini is believed to be the lone surviving suspect of the bombings, which occurred at Brussels Airport and at a metro station. The two suspects seen with Abrini in the surveillance footage were suicide bombers who hid explosives beneath their jackets.
But Abrini is not just linked to the Brussels attacks. According to reports, Abrini is believed to have played a significant role in the citywide attacks on Paris in November 2015, which killed more than 130 people.
Belgian authorities also formally identified another suspect who was seen alongside one of the suicide bombers in a different surveillance clip. CNN reported that the Belgian federal prosecutor's office identified Osama Krayem in connection with the airport bombings. Authorities say Krayem was seen with suspected suicide bomber Khalid El Bakraoui.
According to Reuters, Abrini has been on Europe's most wanted list since December 2015. Reuters reported that Abrini was captured on surveillance footage showing him driving to Paris two days before the wide-scale terrorist attacks on the French capital. He was reportedly seen with Brahim Abdeslam, who has already been taken into custody for his role in the Paris terrorist attacks.
Abrini confessed to being at the scene of the Brussels Airport bombing after investigators showed him the footage Friday night. "He had no other choice," a spokesperson for the federal prosecutor's office said Saturday.
Abrini hails from Molenbeek, a heavily Muslim municipality in Brussels that has been the site of numerous counter-terrorism raids over the last year. The 31-year-old was taken into police custody along with several others suspected of terrorist activity. The statement from the federal prosecutor's office said Abrini was charged with "participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murder."