BRUSSELS // Belgium yesterday released the only man charged over last week’s ISIL attacks in Brussels because of lack of evidence.
The examining magistrate established that he was not the “man in the hat” – the third bomber captured on CCTV at Zaventem airport who fled when his bomb failed to go off.
On Saturday, prosecutors charged the man identified by Belgian media as freelance journalist Faycal Cheffou with offences including terrorist murder.
His release is a further blow to security services accused of bungling the investigation after missing a series of leads to the extremist network behind the attacks last Tuesday and a similar assault in Paris in November.
The death toll from the bombings at the airport and at Maalbeek metro station, the worst terror attacks in Belgium’s history, rose to 35 yesterday when four more people died in hospital. Mourners last night held an Easter Monday church service in memory of the victims.
Police released video of a man in a hat and white jacket pushing a trolley with a large bag through the departure hall next to suicide bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui.
As Belgium struggles to come to terms with the tragedy, recriminations continue over whether the authorities could have prevented it, as the links to the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed become clearer by the day.
Bomb-maker Laachraoui’s DNA was found on some of the explosives used in Paris.
Metro bomber Khalid El Bakraoui, Ibrahim’s brother, is believed to have rented a property linked to Paris prime suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested in Brussels on March 18 metres from his family home after four months on the run.
Last week, Turkey accused Belgium of ignoring a clear and present danger after revealing it had deported Ibrahim El Bakraoui as a “terrorist fighter” last year after arresting him near the Syrian border.
Two Belgian ministers offered to resign after the Turkish link emerged.
Prosecutors earlier said three men arrested in raids in Belgium at the weekend had been charged with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group” but that no direct link had been established with the Brussels attacks.
The men – Yassine A, Mohamed B and Aboubaker O – were detained during 13 raids in Brussels and the towns of Mechelen and Duffel. A fourth person arrested was released.
In the latest piece in the puzzle of the cross-border terror networks, police arrested a 32-year-old French national in Rotterdam on Sunday on suspicion of planning a terror attack during a raid carried out at the request of French authorities.
The man is thought to have been planning an attack in France in the name of ISIL along with Reda Kriket, who was detained near Paris on Thursday.
Belgian prosecutors at the weekend also charged two men with involvement in the Kriket plot, including one shot in the leg after a dramatic stand-off at a tram stop in Brussels on Friday.
An Algerian held in Italy as part of an investigation into fake ID documents used by the Paris and Brussels attackers was still being interrogated but refused to answer questions.
* Agence France-Presse