NEW: 6 people total -- including Bilal Al Makhoukhi -- were arrested Friday, prosecutor's office says
Mohamed Abrini was arrested in Anderlecht; investigators looking at him as possible man in hat in Brussels attacks
The arrested man known as Osama Krayem is also wanted terror suspect Naim al Hamed, a source says
Is a terror suspect arrested Friday in Belgium the hat-wearing man seen in airport surveillance video moments before one of two deadly terror attacks in Brussels?
That’s what investigators are trying to determine after nabbing Mohamed Abrini in a police operation in the Anderlecht district of Brussels. Abrini has been tied to the terror attacks on Paris last November through surveillance video and DNA. Authorities now can question him about the Brussels airport bombing on March 22, part of the attacks that killed 32 people.
Two bombers died at the airport. A third man wearing a hat is seen on video walking with them. Authorities said he fled.
Investigators also are trying to determine whether a man arrested in a separate operation Friday was part of the second attack – at a Brussels metro station – an hour later. Osama Krayem – also known as Naim al Hamed – might be the second person “present at the time of the attack at the Maelbeek subway station,” Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van der Sypt said.
Authorities have said Khalid El Bakraoui carried out the metro attack and Van der Sypt said that another person was seen with El Bakraoui before the subway blast.
Van der Sypt said surveillance video from a mall shows the second person buying the bags used in the airport attack.
Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan, had been among Europe’s most wanted and was considered “armed and dangerous.”
His arrest means that Belgian authorities now have at least two people, along with Salah Abdeslam, who have been directly tied to the attacks in Paris.
Abrini was seen with Abdeslam at a gas station between Brussels and Paris two nights before the Paris massacre. His DNA and fingerprints were lifted from a vehicle used in the Paris attacks, spokesmen for the Belgian federal prosecutor said.
“For French investigators, this can be very big,” said CNN’s Nic Robertson. “This gives you a much stronger position to be in to get to the truth … to (track) other terrorists on the run down,” Robertson said. “And also to understand precisely what happened in Paris.”
But according to Peter Bergen, a leading terrorism expert and CNN analyst, Abrini’s arrest puts pressure on Belgian authorities to find out information quickly.
Days after Abdeslam was arrested, terrorists carried out twin attacks in Brussels. A senior counterterrorism official has said the 26-year-old was probably going to be part of an attack planned by the same ISIS cell.
“Hopefully, Belgian counterterrorism officials won’t make the same mistake they made last time with Abdeslam,” said Bergen, vice president of the New America public policy institute. “They didn’t ask him about what else was in the pipeline.”
Who is Mohamed Abrini?
According to a European police cooperative known as ENFAST, video showed Abrini with Abdeslam on November 11, two days before the massacre in the French capital.
The same Renault Clio that Abrini drove was used in those attacks, ENFAST reports. Abdeslam told authorities he drove a car of that same make and model to the Stade de France – where suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a soccer game – and abandoned it.
He then wandered into the subway and allegedly “contacted one person,” that being Abrini, CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV reported.
Abrini has a criminal record of violent theft. He also had a younger brother killed while fighting for ISIS in 2014, and he was in Istanbul, Turkey, briefly last summer and possibly in Syria.
Relatives have insisted Abrini was in Brussels the night of the Paris attacks.
More than four months later, Belgian state broadcaster VRT reports Abrini was still in the Belgian capital – playing a hands-on role in the terror attacks there.
He is “more than likely” one of three men shown on surveillance video rolling luggage carts through Brussels airport, according to VRT.
On Thursday, Belgian police released a se