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Paris Terror Suspect Admits He Was In Video With Brussels Bombers, Prosecutors Say

The Belgian Federal Police released surveillance video of three men suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium's Zaventem Airport, including the "man in the hat."
The Belgian Federal Police released surveillance video of three men suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium's Zaventem Airport, including the "man in the hat."

Belgium's federal prosecutors say Mohamed Abrini, who was arrested Friday in connection with the Paris attacks last November, has admitted that he is the man seen in surveillance footage with two suicide bombers who attacked a Brussels airport last month.

"We confronted him with the video evidence prepared by our special unit," a spokesperson for the federal prosecutors' office tells Reuters. "He had to admit it was him."

For the past five months, law enforcement officials have been hunting Abrini — one of Europe's most wanted men. They linked him to November's attacks in Paris through surveillance video and DNA evidence.

"He was seen driving with Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris attack suspects, from Brussels to Paris last November just before the attack," NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reported. "He's also thought to have driven Abdeslam home."

In closed-circuit TV footage released by the Belgian police last month, a man in a dark fishing hat and light-colored jacket walks alongside the two suicide bombers at the airport in Brussels. Police were seeking to question the suspect, who'd come to be known as the "man in the hat," but had not publicly identified him as Abrini until now.

According to federal prosecutors, Abrini threw the jacket in the garbage and sold the hat after he left the airport, Teri Schultz reports for NPR's Newscast unit.

Earlier Saturday, the federal prosecutor charged Abrini with "terrorist murders," Schultz says. Three others were also charged in connection to the Brussels attacks, which killed 32 people and wounded more than 300, not only at the airport but at a metro station, as well. The total death toll is 35, including three attackers.

Schultz has more:

"In another big break for investigators, they've been able to confirm a second person arrested Friday night was the man seen with Khalid el-Bakraoui on surveillance video before he bombed the Maelbeek metro station. Prosecutors call him 'Osama K' in their charges. ... He's identified in the media as Swedish national and Islamic State supporter Osama Krayem.

"Two other men have also been charged with 'terrorist murder' and two others, interrogated and released."

This is the latest link between the Paris and Brussels attacks. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reported that Brussels bomber Najim Laachraoui built bombs used in Paris.

"His fingerprints are on the bombs from the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and the Paris stadium," she adds.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.