Thirteen men named as main suspects of Brussels attacks

Thirteen men named as main suspects of Brussels attacks
27-year-old Osama Krayem, was supposed to blow himself up at the Maelbeek metro station, but backed down at the last minute. He is one of the eight suspects set to stand trial over the 2016 Brussels attacks. © Belga

Thirteen men have been named as the main suspects of the 2016 Brussels attacks, eight of whom will appear before Belgium's highest criminal court.

Federal prosecutors want to bring eight men before the Brussels court of assizes, all identified as members of the terror cell behind the attacks in Brussels and those in Paris, which took place months earlier.

Salah Abdeslam, a 30-year-old Belgian-born French national, is among the eight main defendants tried for their role in the attacks in which 32 civilians were killed and hundreds more injured.

Due to his involvement and role in the cell, prosecutors in Belgium want to try him as a central perpetrator of the attacks despite the fact that he was arrested four days ahead of the bombings in Brussels Airport and in a busy metro station in the European Quarter.

As the only surviving attacker to have been directly involved in the 2015 Paris attacks, Abdeslam, 30, is currently imprisoned in France, where he also expected to stand trial.

The other main suspects are Mohamed Abrini, 35, also known as "the man in the hat," who was captured on CCTV leaving a bag of explosives behind at Brussels Airport.

The court will also try Osama Krayem, 27, one of the suicide bombers who targetted Maelbeek metro station. Krayem was set to blow himself up but backed down at the last minute.

The list also includes 25-year-old Sofien Ayari, who was arrested after a shootout in Brussels, as well as Oussama Atar, 35. Prosecutors consider Atar, who could have been killed in Syria in 2017, as the brains of the cross-border terror cell.

Bilal El Makhouki, 29, Ali El Haddad Asufi 36 and Hervé Bayingana, whose age is unknown, are charged with being involved with the terror cell and/or assisting the attack's perpetrators by providing them with weapons or helping them to hide from authorities.

Two other men, brothers Smail and Ibrahim Farisi, were referred to a correctional court. They risk up to five years imprisonment after the investigation revealed they provided members of the cell with an apartment in Etterbeek.

The thirteen-name list was made known following a technical hearing held in Brussels in preparation for the trial, which has no fixed date but is expected to take place no sooner than mid-2021.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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