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World

Belgian Police Hunt Airport Suspect; Victim Toll Rises to 35

The bombings, the bloodiest in recent Belgian history, were claimed by the Islamic State extremist group

In a sign of the tensions in the Belgian capital and the way security services are stretched across the country, Belgium's interior minister appealed to residents not to march Sunday in Brussels in solidarity with the victims., Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
2 years ago

As the number of victims in the Brussels suicide attacks rose to 35, Belgian police on Monday released a video of a mysterious man in a dark hat seen in the company of the bombers who attacked Brussels Airport, indicating that he is still at large.

“Police are seeking to identify this man,” the Belgian Federal Police’s website said.

In the police raids that followed the March 22 attacks, Belgian authorities said a man identified as Faycal C. was among those taken into custody and facing preliminary terror charges.

Belgian media had claimed the man was the mysterious suspect in the white jacket and dark hat spotted with the two bombers at the airport the morning of the attacks.

But on Monday, a Belgian magistrate ruled that new evidence uncovered by investigators revealed there were no grounds to keep Faycal C. in custody and he was released, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Belgian Federal Police’s website posted a 32-second video of the still-unidentified suspect as he wheels baggage through the terminal alongside the bombers.

Police in riot gear protect one of the memorials to the victims of the recent Brussels attacks, as right wing demonstrators protest near the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, Sunday, March, 27, 2016. In a sign of the tensions in the Belgian capital and the way security services are stretched across the country, Belgium's interior minister appealed to residents not to march Sunday in Brussels in solidarity with the victims."We understand fully the emotions," Interior Minister Jan Jambon told reporters. "We understand that everyone wants to express these feelings."(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Police in riot gear protect one of the memorials to the victims of the recent Brussels attacks, as right wing demonstrators protest near the Place de la Bourse in Brussels. Photo: AP/Alastair Grant

“If you recognize this individual or you have information concerning this attack, please contact investigators,” police asked.

Belgian authorities also announced that three more people swept up in police raids that followed the attacks on the airport and on a Brussels subway train were being held on charges of participating in terrorist activities.

It was not clear if the suspects ordered held by an investigating judge were linked to the attacks themselves. The three — identified by Belgian prosecutors as Yassine A., Mohamed B. and Aboubaker O. — were detained during 13 police searches Sunday in Brussels and the northern cities of Mechelen and Duffel.

The federal prosecutors’ office provided no details of the alleged actions committed by the suspects and released a fourth person without charge.

The bombings, the bloodiest in recent Belgian history, were claimed by the Islamic State extremist group and confirmed Belgium’s status as an unwitting rear base from which Muslim extremists can stage attacks in Europe. Many of those responsible for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds came from Belgium.

In this image provided by the Belgian Federal Police in Brussels on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 of three men who are suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium's Zaventem Airport. The website of Belgium's Federal Police on Monday, March 28 began carrying a 32-second video of a mysterious man in a hat suspected of having taking part in the March 22 bombing of Brussels Airport. "The police are seeking to identify this man," the site says. The implication is that the suspected accomplice of the two airport suicide bombers could still be at large. (Belgian Federal Police via AP)

Three men who are suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium’s Zaventem Airport. Photo: AP/Belgian Federal Police

Four more people wounded in the Brussels attacks died in the hospital, Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block announced on her Twitter account Monday.

She posted: “Four patients deceased in hospital. Medical teams did all possible. Total victims: 35. Courage to all the families.”

De Block had reported over the weekend that 101 of the 270 wounded in the blasts were still being treated in hospitals, including 32 in burn units. A doctor at one of those burn units who had once served in Afghanistan described patients’ wounds as shocking.

One week after the devastating attacks, which severely damaged Brussels Airport’s departure area, the facility is planning to test its capacity to partially resume passenger service.

Florence Muls, an airport communications manager, said 800 staff members on Tuesday will test temporary infrastructure and new arrangements designed to handle passenger check-ins.

It’s too early to say when airport service might actually resume, she said, adding that government and firefighters must approve the new system before Brussels Airport can start handling passenger traffic again.

Before the bombings, Brussels Airport served some 600 flights a day and 23.5 million passengers per year.

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