Belgium steps up hunt for terror suspect

Along the way, the "man in the hat" got rid of his jacket, which investigators are looking for as it might provide invaluable information.
Along the way, the "man in the hat" got rid of his jacket, which investigators are looking for as it might provide invaluable information.PHOTO: REUTERS

Video footage shows suspected surviving attacker's escape route from Brussels airport

BRUSSELS • Belgian prosecutors launched a fresh appeal for help in finding the suspected surviving attacker in last month's Brussels airport bombings, releasing a video of the escape route taken by the so-called "man in the hat".

Police have been desperately searching for the third suspect since he was seen on CCTV next to the two suicide bombers, who blew themselves up at the airport in coordinated attacks that also struck a Brussels metro station.

A total of 32 people were killed and more than 340 wounded in the attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

On Thursday, Belgian health minister Maggie De Block said that 57 people were still hospitalised, 28 of them in intensive care.

The newly released police video on Thursday showed the man, wearing a dark hat and a light-coloured jacket, fleeing the airport's departure hall after the bombs went off at 7.58am Brussels time on March 22.

CCTV footage showed him continuing his route on foot towards central Brussels, where surveillance cameras lost track of him at about 9.50am.

Along the way, the fugitive discarded his jacket and, at one point, appeared to be on the phone.

Federal prosecution spokesman Eric Van der Sypt told a press conference: "We especially appeal to anyone who might have filmed or think they have photographed the suspect."

Investigators are urgently looking for the jacket, described in the statement accompanying the video as light "with a hood which is dark inside".

"Should this jacket be found, this might give invaluable information to the investigators."

Last week, police asked all residents and business owners in the Brussels region who have external surveillance cameras not to delete any footage from March 15 onwards.

Belgian investigators are still working to identify the people who organised and carried out the attacks. In addition to the man in the hat, French and Belgian news media have reported that police are looking for a man seen on surveillance footage alongside the subway bomber.

Separately, Australia's immigration minister said yesterday that dual nationals who were involved in terror activities, members of a banned organisation or convicted of terrorism offences could lose their Australian citizenship.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Belgium steps up hunt for terror suspect'. Print Edition | Subscribe