1 Week After Brussels Attack, More Government, Other Offices Reopen
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And one of the outstanding mysteries of last week's Brussels attacks is the identity of the man in a hat. That's the third man caught on video pushing a cart alongside two suicide bombers at the Brussels airport. The only person police have arrested and charged in the bombings so far has also been released because of lack of evidence. And for a general update on what's going on in Brussels, we reached NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. She is in Brussels. Good morning.
DINA EMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Now, let's start with the release of this suspect. Tell us more about him and why he was released exactly.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, this man was picked up just after - sorry - this is the man that police had thought was the mysterious third man captured on security footage, as you said - the one wearing the hat and the glasses and the light-colored coat. And he allegedly ran from the airport shortly after the two suicide bombers had exploded their suicide vests. And police picked up a citizen journalist named Faycal Cheffou. And they thought he was in fact that third man, the man in the hat. He was arrested right outside the federal prosecutor's office. And he was charged with terrorism offenses. But now a judge has released him saying there's not enough evidence to hold him. And, to be honest, he doesn't really fit the profile of an ISIS operative. As far as we know he has no connection to the group or to the men that police are looking for who might have been part of this plot.
MONTAGNE: And why were the authorities so sure he was involved?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, that was because a taxi driver who had driven the bombers to the airport picked him out of a lineup and said this looked like the third man. I mean, this is definitely a setback for investigators as the three other people identified as directly involved in the bombings - the Bakraoui brothers and the suspected bomb-maker - they're all dead. And that leaves Belgium worrying about who might be still out there waiting for an attack - so worried in fact that U.S. sources tell us that the Belgians have provided copies of hard drives, of computers they have found and phones related to the attack. They have provided those to the FBI hoping they can help with the investigation.
MONTAGNE: Now, the Belgians have identified other suspects. Is that correct?
TEMPLE-RASTON: They have identified some, but we hear from sources in the U.S. that the only one that they think they actually have a name to is this mysterious third man that you saw in the surveillance video. The Belgians have also released for the first time that surveillance video showing this third man pushing the luggage cart, as you say. And they are hoping that the public will be able to identify him and provide some clues. Right now we don't know who it is that they are looking for specifically. The U.S. hasn't released the name, and neither have the Belgians.
MONTAGNE: And we just have about a minute here. The Brussels airport, where the first attack took place, that is still closed?
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's still closed. All flights are still canceled. Officials are still trying to determine whether or not it's structurally sound after the bombings. They haven't said when it will be reopened. So people right now who are booked to fly out of Brussels are being rerouted.
MONTAGNE: You know, I just want to jump in here. There are reportings that ISIS is targeting the youth in Brussels with text messages.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes, that's the latest thing that we've heard. The Guardian newspaper first reported this that young men in Molenbeek, this neighborhood in Brussels where a lot of these people involved with the attacks came from, have been getting text messages that basically say make the right choice and fight the Westerners. And it's really frightening the community because they feel ISIS is targeting their kids.
MONTAGNE: Well, certainly more to come there in Brussels. Dina, thank you very much.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston.
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