Brussels arrest could be linked to 'man in hat'

The 'man in the hat' escaped after the airport blasts and an unexploded bomb was found at the site

Mohamed Abrini, Paris attacks, arrested, Salah al-Abdeslam, Belgium

Mohamed Abrini | Image via @PolFed_presse on Twitter

Police investigating the Brussels attacks are trying to find out if a terror suspect arrested in the Belgian capital is the 'man in the hat' who escaped after the airport bombings.

Mohamed Abrini, one of Europe's most wanted men, was the last suspect on the run in connection with last November's shootings and bombings in Paris.

He was thought to be the fugitive Brussels airport attacker pictured on CCTV with the two suicide bombers in the departure hall before the blasts, according to French officials.

But Belgian authorities said they could not confirm this and the inquiry was still under way as they arrested five people in the city.

"We are investigating if Abrini can be identified as the third person at the Brussels national airport, the so-called man with the hat," said prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt.

Abrini's DNA was found in a flat in the Schaarbeek area of the city where airport bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui left from before they detonated their explosives, say prosecutors.

They added his fingerprints were also discovered in a Renault Clio used in the Paris attacks.

Abrini was believed to have visited Birmingham a number of times last year, where he met several men suspected of terrorist activity.

Mobile phone footage has captured the moment a man believed to be Abrini was arrested in Brussels.
In the video - taken by a bystander - the suspect was seen lying face down before being dragged into a car by security forces.

Abrini was arrested with two other unnamed people in the operation linked to last month's suicide bombings, which killed 32 people at Zaventem airport and a metro station.

Two others were arrested elsewhere in Brussels, including Osama Kraiem who prosecutors say was caught on CCTV at a shopping centre buying the suitcases used in the airport blasts.

Authorities are checking whether Kraiem could have been with bomber Khalid El Bakraoui at a metro station before the latter blew himself up on a train. Another man detained has been named as Herve BM.

The 'man in the hat' escaped after the airport blasts and an unexploded bomb was found at the site.

Abrini, 31, who is a Belgian of Moroccan origin, was arrested in the Anderlecht district of Brussels. The area was home to several other suspects linked to the attacks in Brussels and Paris.

Europol said Abrini was filmed two days before the Paris atrocities in November at a petrol station with another suspect, Salah Abdeslam, on the road to the French capital.

He later disappeared and was described by Europol as armed and dangerous.

Abdeslam was detained last month, a few days before the Brussels attacks, and is now awaiting extradition to France.

His lawyer said he had intended to blow himself up in Paris but backed out at the last minute.