For some considerable time before the Paris attacks, the second most wanted man in Europe after Salah Abdeslam, Mohamed Abrini, later recognised as being “the man in the hat” at Brussels airport in Zaventem, was under Belgian police surveillance. The daily newspaper Le Parisien, which reveals the information in its Wednesday edition, says that these surveillance operations occurred up to and including November 13th, the day of the Paris attacks. During this period, it is suspected that Abrini was regularly seen with Salah Abdeslam.
Le Parisien states that Abrini was placed police custody on July 27th, 2015, as part of an anti-terrorist investigation opened on July 13th.
Freshly released from prison, where he was held for specific offences, Abrini had taken a flight for Turkey on June 25th, 2015. Informed of this departure by a “tip-off”, the police feared that he would go to Syria.
Upon returning to Belgium, Abrini learned that he was wanted by police and went voluntarily to the police station in Molenbeek, confirming that he had been holidaying in Istanbul and its locality. He added that he had stayed a week in London, then two days in Paris before returning to Brussels.
This somewhat unusual trip then led to a series of police surveillance activities outside Mohamed Abrini’s house, Le Parisien states. These surveillance activities carried on up to and including November 13th, when he disappeared off the police radar.
Mohamed Abrini, who was charged with participation in terrorist group activities, terrorist assassinations, and attempted terrorist assassinations, as part the case of the Brussels attacks in Zaventem, was arrested on April 8th in Anderlecht.