Mohamed Abrini, a key suspect in the November 13 Paris attacks, was arrested in the Anderlecht district of Brussels, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed Friday.
Abrini was the last remaining suspect identified in the November 13 Paris attacks still at large following the arrest two weeks ago of Salah Abdeslam, another Paris attacks suspect.
A 31-year-old Belgian national, Abrini is a childhood friend of Abdeslam, who is currently in custody in Belgium awaiting extradition to France.
At a press conference in Brussels on Friday night, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed reports by Belgian media that Abrini had been arrested at Place Albert in Anderlecht, Brussels, along with two other suspects.
Who is Mohamed Abrini?
Abrini’s arrest marks a major development in the investigations into the Paris attacks amid increasing evidence of links between the March 22 Brussels attacks and the November 13 terror assaults on the French capital.
Belgian media had earlier reported that Abrini was one of three men -- also known as “the man in the hat” -- captured on CCTV footage at Brussels airport on March 22 shortly before suicide bombings ripped the departures lounge.
But at the press conference Friday night, Belgium’s deputy federal prosecutor Thierry Wert said investigators were still looking into whether Abrini was “the man in the hat” at the airport.
Thirty-two people were killed in the March 22 Brussels attacks at the capital’s airport and the central Maelbeek metro station.
The two other men in the footage have been identified as Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, who blew themselves up at the airport.
El-Bakraoui’s brother, Khalid el-Bakraoui was the suicide bomber in the Maelbeek metro station attack.
The two other suspects arrested Friday with Abrini have been identified as Osama K., who went by the alias of Naim Al Ahmed, and Herve B.M.
"Investigators are now verifying whether Osama K. can be positively identified as being the second person present at the time of the attack in the Maalbeek subway station," said Wert. "This second person was seen in the company of Khalid El Bakraoui" shortly before El Bakraoui blew himself up, he said.
Car and apartment links to Paris attacks
Abrini, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, was filmed at a petrol station with Abdeslam two days before the Paris attacks. Belgian police issued an arrest warrant for Abrini days after the November 13 attacks.
His fingerprint was identified in the Renault Clio car used by the Paris attackers on the night of November 13.
Both Abrini and Abdeslam rented an apartment in the Parisian suburb of Alfortville, where several of the Paris attackers had stayed shortly before the assaults.
News of Abrini’s arrest came a day after Belgian prosecutors released new images and details about the so-called "man in the hat" and called on the public for information regarding the suspect.
The CCTV footage shows the “man in the hat” suspect leaving the Brussels airport shortly after the attacks and walking into downtown Brussels where traces of him were finally lost.
Reporting from Brussels, FRANCE 24’s Méabh McMohan said Abrini has a criminal record in Belgium and had served time in prison for armed robberies.
He is believed to have traveled to Syria and his brother is thought to have been killed while fighting with a French-speaking brigade of the Islamic State (IS) group.
Both the Paris and Brussels attacks have been claimed by the IS group.
FRANCE 24's Méabh McMohan reporting from Brussels
Date created : 2016-04-08