Belgium names eight men as main suspects in Brussels 2016 attacks

Alleged ringleader believed to have been ISIS intelligence official

Salah Abdeslam is already in a French jail for his alleged role in the attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 131 people. AFP
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Prosecutors in Belgium want to bring eight men before the country's highest court, who they believe played key roles in an ISIS-inspired triple suicide bombing on Brussels in 2016 that killed 32 civilians and wounded hundreds more.

Ousamma Atar, 35, who was reportedly a senior figure in ISIS’s intelligence service, is accused of being the ringleader of the international cell but prosecutors say it is likely that he died in Syria in 2017.

The other seven accused are alive and had already been formally charged. The men were named on a list that prosecutors in Belgium had prepared in advance of trials that are not due to start until 2021 and may last longer than six months, officials said.

Among them is Salah Abdeslam, a 30-year-old French citizen, who is already in a French jail for his alleged role in the attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 131 people.

Prosecutors say another man on the list, Osama Krayem, a Swedish man of Syrian origin, had planned to blow himself up but decided not to go through with it and was captured after a manhunt weeks later.

Belgian media reported that he was present at the execution of Jordanian pilot of Muath Al Kasasbeh, who was burnt alive by ISIS in Syria in 2015.

Mohamed Abrini, 35, allegedly left a bag packed with explosives at Brussels Airport while Sofien Ayari is already serving a 20-year sentence for shooting at police in the Belgian capital only a week before the Brussels attack.

The case of Atar has proven particularly controversial because of his release from an Iraqi prison in 2012 after having served three-quarters of a jail term for being an Al Qaeda member. He was later reported to be a senior ISIS figure.