Key suspect in Paris attacks seized in Belgium, officials say

Islamic Extremism

Mohamed Abrini(FILES) This file combination of pictures obtained form the Belgian Federal Police shows an undated file picture of Mohamed Abrini (30), a man sought in connection with the Paris terror attacks and images obtained from CCTV footage of him on November 11 at a gas station in Ressons on the highway heading to Paris. Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini was arrested on April 8, 2016, according to police sources. / AFP PHOTO / BELGIAN FEDERAL POLICE

A fugitive suspect in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was arrested in Belgium on Friday, French police officials said. The arrest was made after a raid Belgian authorities said was linked to the deadly March 22 bombings in Brussels.

CCTV America’s Mike Walter interviewed Kamran Bokhari, a Fellow with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism about the Paris attacks.

Kamran Bokhari on capture of Paris terrorist

CCTV America’s Mike Walter interviewed Kamran Bokhari, a Fellow with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism about the Paris attacks.

According to a French official, the suspect, Mohamed Abrini, is believed to be the mysterious “man in the hat” who escaped the double bombing at the Zaventem airport. 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.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Friday’s arrest of at least two people came a day after Belgian authorities released photos and video of the airport suspect.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed “several arrests” but refused to provide more information.

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Abrini was the last identified suspect still at large from the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. His precise role has never been clear. Abrini is a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan petty criminal believed to have traveled early last summer to Syria. In 2014, his younger brother died in the Islamic State group’s notorious francophone brigade.

He has not resurfaced since the emergence of surveillance video placing him in the convoy with the attackers headed to Paris. Abrini 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.

Abrini 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. The 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. Abdeslam was a part of the convoy headed to Paris in the 36 hours leading up to the attacks.

The man in the hat was with the two suicide bombers who killed 16 people at Brussels airport on March 22. A second arrest could also be linked to the Maelbeek subway bombing that killed another 16 people during rush hour that 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. There, all traces of him were reportedly lost.

Friday’s arrest of Abrini was first reported by Belgian broadcaster VRT.

Story by The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Kevin Ozbek on the capture of Paris attack suspects

Kevin Ozbek has more information on the capture of the Paris attack suspects in Belgium.