Not enough evidence, so Brussels attack suspect released

BRUSSELS • The sole suspect charged over last week's Brussels attacks was released yesterday after a lack of evidence linking him to the blasts at the airport and a metro station, Belgian prosecutors said.

"The indications that led to the arrest of Faycal C. were not substantiated by the ongoing inquiry. As a result, the subject has been released by the examining magistrate," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement, without giving further details.

The man had been charged on Saturday with "terrorist murder".

Belgian media had identified him as Faycal Cheffou, who claimed to be a freelance journalist. Media had said he was the "man in the hat" seen with two suicide bombers at the airport.

The police yesterday issued a new appeal for information about the man, who was caught on CCTV at the airport wearing a white jacket and a hat pushing a trolley with a large black bag on it.

A Europe-wide hunt for suspects has revealed links with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant network that attacked Paris last year and also foiled a new potential attack on France last week, officials said.

But several suspects are reported to be still at large.

A source close to the investigation, who did not want to be named, said Faycal C was believed to be Cheffou.

But the source also said there had been no official identification, implying police may be having difficulties linking him to the figure captured on CCTV, who was wearing glasses and whose hat was pulled down over his face.

Police say the man appeared to have left his bomb, which failed to explode, and fled.

Separately, Belgium charged three terror suspects yesterday as police across Europe stepped up efforts to unravel a militant network linked to last week's Brussels attacks.

The death toll rose to 35 yesterday, excluding the three bombers. Four patients died in hospital, Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block said in a tweet.

Prosecutors said three men arrested at the weekend in a series of raids had been charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office told Agence France-Presse that "no direct link has been established with the Brussels attacks".

Meanwhile, on Sunday, police arrested a 32-year- old French national in Rotterdam on suspicion of planning a terror attack, Dutch prosecutors said, following a raid carried out at the request of the French authorities.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Not enough evidence, so Brussels attack suspect released'. Print Edition | Subscribe