, BRUSSELS, Belgium, Mar 26 – Belgium on Saturday charged a man believed to be the fugitive third Brussels airport bomber with terrorism murder, in a breakthrough for security forces facing criticism for letting suspects slip through the net.
A huge manhunt netted the suspect officially identified as Faycal C – and identified by local media as Faycal Cheffou – and investigators are now working on the theory that he could be the man in a hat and white jacket pictured with two other airport bombers, but whose device failed to go off.
Brussels airport said it will not reopen before Tuesday at the earliest as it implements new security measures and repairs the departure hall wrecked by the bombers, believed to be from the Islamic State group.
Belgians in mourning will gather Sunday for a rally in a central Brussels square now carpeted with flowers and tributes to the 31 killed and 300 injured in the March 22 metro and airport bombs, with a national solidarity march also planned.
Prosecutors meanwhile also charged a man arrested in Belgium over a new plot to hit Paris, deepening the connections in what French President Francois Hollande has described as a single terror cell straddling both France and Belgium.
The Belgian government faces a torrent of criticism at home and abroad, with key ministers on the back foot saying they had done everything possible to prevent Tuesday’s attacks and track a network also linked to November’s Paris attacks.
Many believe it failed to stop young Belgian fighters going to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) – which claimed the attacks – and then returning home battle-hardened and more extremist than before.
“It is an endless nightmare for a country turned upside down,” said Le Soir daily in a front-page editorial.