Belgian prosecutors say terror group planned new attacks in Paris
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -Terrorists who attacked the Belgian capital last month planned to strike France again, but changed their minds, authorities said Sunday.
Suicide bombers targeted the airport and subway station in Brussels on March 22, killing 32 people in the heart of the European capital.
“Numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again,” the Belgium prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
When attackers discovered French investigators were moving fast, they changed their plans.
“Eventually … they urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels,” the prosecutor said.
The announcement came a day after authorities identified Mohamed Abrini, believed to be the third and lone surviving suspect in the Brussels airport attacks.
‘Man in the hat’
Authorities said Abrini confessed to being the “man in the hat.” He was seen in Brussels airport surveillance images wearing a dark hat and rolling luggage carts with two men believed to be the suicide bombers.
Authorities charged him with participation in terrorist activities, terrorist murders and attempts to commit terrorist murders, the prosecutor’s office said.
Abrini is one of six people detained in raids Friday across the Belgian capital. In addition to the Brussels attack, he has been tied through surveillance video and DNA to November’s terror attacks in Paris. Those attacks killed 130 people.
Earlier Saturday, the prosecutor’s office said it identified the second person seen in surveillance footage from the subway attack in Brussels.
Osama Krayem — also known as Naim al Hamed — is seen along suicide bomber Khalid El Bakraoui, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
He has also been charged with “participation to the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murders,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
European security agencies believe Krayem, or Hamed, played an operational role in the attack.
Belgium has emerged as a hotbed of extremism, exporting more foreign fighters per capita to Syria than any other Western European nation, according to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.
The Brussels and Paris attacks “point to a broad and sophisticated terrorist network in Belgium,” the London-based think tank said.