BRUSSELS (CBSNewYork/AP) – A fugitive suspect in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was arrested in Belgium on Friday, after a raid Belgian authorities said was linked to the deadly March 22 Brussels bombings.
“This afternoon, Mohamed Abrini was arrested at the Place Albert in Albenit,” said Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt.READ MORE: Police: 2 Children Found Safe Following Carjacking In Newark; Search On For Suspects
As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported, Abrini, 31, is also believed to be the mysterious “man in the hat” who escaped the double bombing at the Zaventem airport, according to one of the French officials. If true, that would mean Abrini had a key role in both attacks carried out by the Islamic State cell that left a total of 162 people dead — 130 in Paris and 32 in Brussels.
Friday’s arrest of Abrini and several other suspects came a day after Belgian authorities released photos and video of the airport suspect.
The government and top security officials gathered in a national security council meeting in the wake of Friday’s detention to assess the consequences of the operation.
Abrini was the last identified suspect still at large from the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people, although his precise role has never been clear. He is a Belgian-Moroccan petty criminal believed to have traveled early last summer to Syria where his younger brother died in 2014 in ISIS’ notorious francophone brigade.
He has not resurfaced since the emergence of surveillance video placing him in the convoy with the attackers headed to Paris. He had ties to Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the ringleader of the Paris attacks who died in a police standoff on Nov. 18, and is a childhood friend of brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam.
He went multiple times to Birmingham, England, last year, meeting with several men suspected of terrorist activity, a European security official has told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide details on the investigation. He said the meetings, including one later last summer, took place in several locations, including cafes and apartments.
He was traveling with Salah Abdeslam, who is in jail in Belgium for involvement in the Paris attacks, in the convoy headed to Paris in the 36 hours leading up to the attacks.READ MORE: Nets Rally From 17 Down In 3rd Quarter To Beat Mavericks
“The investigation into the Paris attacks has shown that Mohammed Abrini and Salah Abdeslam rented an aparthotel in Alfortville sometime before the attacks,” Van der Sypt said.
Belgian prosecutors said fingerprints and DNA from Abrini had been found in a Renault Clio used in the Paris attacks, and in the apartment in the Forest area of the Belgian capital that was used by Salah Abdeslam as a hideout until police stumbled upon it.
The man in the hat was with the two suicide bombers who killed 16 people at Brussels airport on March 22.
Investigators said another man arrested on Friday, identified as Osama K., was seen with Maelbeek subway bomber Khalid El Bakraoui just before the March 22 attacks.
Osama K. was also filmed by security cameras in the City 2 shopping mall when the bags were bought that were used by the suicide bombers who attacked Brussels Airport the same morning.
On Thursday, authorities released photos and video of a man wearing a dark hat, leaving the airport on foot, walking to the nearby town of Zaventem and then into Brussels, where all traces of him were reportedly lost.
The appeal for public assistance more than two weeks after the suicide bombings indicates that investigators were at a standstill.
The arrest of Abrini was first reported by Belgian broadcaster VRT.MORE NEWS: Islanders' Offense Wakes Up, 11-Game Losing Streak Ends With Victory Over Senators
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