Police arrested six people linked to the self-styled Islamic State militant group in Belgium on April 8 for their involvement in the recent Brussels bombings, according to Euronews.
The Brussels attacks occurred on March 22 when a total of three bombs exploded, two at Brussels’ Zaventem airport and one at Maelbeek Metro Station. The attacks killed 31 people and left many more severely wounded. According to Euronews, the Islamic State claimed responsibility and connected the attacks to terrorist activity perpetrated in Paris in November of last year.
Belgian security forces went into full force to track down the members of the Franco-Belgian group of the Islamic State fighters connected to both the Paris and Brussels attacks. A manhunt eventually led Belgian police to the neighborhood of Uccle in Brussels where they found and arrested six suspects. Two brothers, Ibrahim F. and Smail F., along with Herve BM, Bilal EM, Osama K, Mohamed Abrini, have been named among those arrested, according to Euronews. BBC News reports that police have charged four of the six with terror offences, including murder.
The arrest and incrimination of Mohamed Abrini appears especially significant as he remains a key suspect in the Paris attacks and played a major role in the Brussels bombings. Of Belgian-Moroccan descent, Abrini likely traveled to Syria, according to BBC, where he may have received training from ISIS leaders. In the Paris attacks, investigators suspect he drove the Renault Clio the gunmen used before the attacks. In the Brussels attacks, widely circulated CCTV footage caught him wearing a hat and leaving Zaventem Airport immediately after the bombings.
Abrini has already acknowledged some involvement in the Brussels explosions. A statement released by Belgium’s Federal Prosecution Office said that, “After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene.”
Furthermore, Abrini has released details about the group’s decision to bomb Brussels. The Guardian reports that Abrini told police that the Franco-Belgian group of Islamic State fighters involved in the Paris attacks had initially planned to attack France again at the Euro 2016 soccer championships rather than target Brussels. However, because Salah Abdeslam, a key member of the Franco-Belgian Islamic State offshoot and main suspect in the Paris attacks, was arrested on March 18 and purportedly cooperated with law officials, the group changed course and planned the airport and metro bombings for four days later.
Belgian police remain on alert for any retaliation that could result from the arrests, and security remains heightened across Europe.
Note: An abbreviated version of this article appears in print.
Mary Zuccarello is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service and plans on majoring in either International Politics or Global Business. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but has ventured off to France, Spain, and Italy, where she gained an appreciation for Western European culture. She is especially interested in security and economic issues affecting Western Europe.