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Belgium releases video of airport suspect fleeing after bombings
[BRUSSELS] Belgian prosecutors on Thursday launched a fresh appeal for help to find the suspected surviving attacker in last month's Brussels airport bombings, the so-called "man in the hat," releasing a video of his escape route.
Police have been desperately searching for the man seen on CCTV next to the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the airport on March 22 in coordinated attacks that also struck a Brussels metro station. A total of 32 people died.
The newly released police video shows the suspect, wearing a hat and a light-coloured jacket, fleeing the airport's departure hall after the bombs went off at 07:58 am on March 22.
CCTV footage shows him continuing his route on foot towards central Brussels where surveillance cameras lose track of him at 09:50 am.
Along the way, the man discards his jacket and at one point appears to be on the phone.
"We especially appeal to anyone who might have filmed or think they have photographed the suspect," spokesman Eric Van der Sypt told a press conference to present the video.
Investigators are urgently looking for the jacket, described in a statement as "bright with a hood which is dark inside".
"Especially the jacket interests us," the prosecutor office's spokesman told reporters.
Potential witnesses are asked to contact the police using a specially provided phone number and email address.
Last week police asked all residents and business owners in the Brussels region who have external surveillance cameras not to delete any footage from March 15 onwards.
Belgian authorities have come under fire for their handling of the case, especially after close links emerged between the Brussels attackers and those behind the Paris terror assaults last November which left 130 dead.
Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.
The sole surviving suspect in the Paris carnage, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested in Belgium on March 18, just around the corner from his family home, after four months on the run.
He is currently being held in a prison in the northern Belgian city of Bruges, where he is awaiting extradition to France.
His lawyer Sven Mary on Thursday said it would be "several weeks" before his client was transferred to France, as Belgian investigators still had to question him about a police raid at a Brussels apartment on March 15.
That raid triggered a shootout during which several officers were injured and terror suspect Mohamed Belkaid, an Algerian, was shot dead.
Two men fled the scene and prosecutors later said they had found Abdeslam's fingerprints in the apartment.
The 26-year-old French national denies having any prior knowledge of the Brussels attacks, despite having links to at least two of the Brussels bombers.
Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at Maalbeek metro station, rented the flat where the March 15 raid took place.
And one of the two airport bombers, Najim Laachraoui, drove to Hungary with Abdeslam last September.
In the latest twist in the case, the European Parliament on Wednesday said one of the Brussels bombers worked as a cleaner at the institution for a month in 2009 and again in 2010.
It did not name the individual, but a source close to the inquiry told AFP it was Laachraoui, who is also suspected of being the bomb-maker for the Paris terror assaults.
The ties between the suspects in both attacks have exposed a complex web of inter-connected jihadist cells, putting pressure on European security forces to step up cooperation in the fight against extremism.