Belgium in fresh appeal over ‘man in hat’ bombing suspect

Authorities especially interested in anyone who may have filmed or photographed man

Police launch an appeal to find the 'man in hat' Brussels airport bombing suspect. Video: Belgian Federal Police


New footage has been released by Belgian authorities of one of three suspects involved in the terrorist attack on Brussels airport on March 22nd.

CCCTV footage showing the so-called “man in the hat”, who left the airport having put a bomb in the departure lounge that failed to detonate, was released by federal police on Thursday afternoon.

It shows the route taken by the suspected terrorist after he left the airport shortly after the first bomb there exploded shortly before 8am. The suspect, who was dressed in a lightly-coloured jacket and wearing a hat, left the airport by foot for the city centre, passing the Sheraton Hotel directly across from the departure lounge.

He discarded his jacket in the suburb of Zaventem and made his way towards central Brussels where he was picked up by a number of CCCTV cameras in the Zaventem and Schaerbeek districts. Video footage shows him wearing a light blue shirt with dark elbow patches after he discarded the jacket.

The last sighting of the man was at 9.50am at the crossing of Rue du Noyer and Avenue de la Brabançonne just north of the EU quarter in Brussels. The crossroads is located just ten minutes walk from the Maelbeek metro station, where there was a second bomb attack at 9.11am.

The attacks at the airport and train station, carried out by the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 32 people.

Police in Brussels have appealed to anyone who may have noticed the discarded jacket or who may have seen the suspect in the two hours following the attacks to contact investigators.

Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said authorities were especially interested in speaking to anyone who may have filmed or photographed the man.

International criticism

More than two weeks after the twin terrorist attacks, the search for at least one surviving suspect continues.

The third airport bomber, who has been referred to by prosecutors as the “man in the hat”, was captured by CCCTV footage walking beside two other men who are believed to have blown themselves up in two bomb attacks in the departure lounge of Brussels Airport on the morning of March 22nd.

On Wednesday, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel strongly defended his country’s response to the attacks amid widespread international criticism of Belgium’s security and police services. It emerged that Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam had been living in Brussels since the November 13th attacks on the French capital.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Michel rejected descriptions of Belgium as a “failed state”, arguing that it took US authorities more than ten years to track down Osama bin Laden after the September 11th attacks of 2001.

“Some people said it was scandalous to take a few months to arrest Salah Abdeslam. For Bin Laden, sought by all police throughout the world, it was 10 years after September 11th and 3,000 deaths in New York,” he said.

The European Parliament announced on Wednesday that one of the Brussels attackers had worked in the its headquarters in Brussels as a cleaner. The suspect worked for one month in both 2009 and 2010 as a temporary cleaner and was employed by a cleaning company that was contracted by the parliament at the time. His identity was not confirmed by the parliament.