brussels attacks

Belgian Officials Release Bombing Suspect

A police officer carries out an anti-terrorism raid following attacks in Brussels. Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ

Over the weekend, Belgian officials made three arrests in connection to Tuesday’s bombings, but at least one suspect was released today in what the New York Times reports was probably a case of mistaken identity. Fayçal Cheffou, a citizen journalist who reportedly has a “history of advocating for radical Islamist causes,” was identified by a taxi driver as the man in the white coat and dark hat seen in surveillance footage wheeling a luggage trolley through Zaventem airport. But police released Cheffou Monday, saying there’s insufficient evidence to connect him to the attacks.

The evidence that had led to the arrest of the man named Fayçal C. was not substantiated by the evolution of the ongoing investigation,” Thierry Werts, a spokesperson for the federal prosecutor, said in a statement. “Consequently, he has been freed by the investigative judge.” But just because he’s free doesn’t mean the charges against him have been dropped, another spokesperson pointed out. 

“We’re not saying that he’s innocent. That we do not do,” Eric Van der Sijpt, the second spokesperson, told the Times. “It’s that he’s no longer needed in prison. But there are two different things. Preventative custody has nothing to do with the actual investigations or the charges brought.”

Cheffou’s arrest was a big break for Belgian authorities who’ve been criticized for missing opportunities to stop the attack before it happened — he was the only suspected bomber still alive after the attack. Upon Cheffou’s release, Belgian authorities will continue to search for the man seen alongside Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui at Zaventem.