Brussels 'march against fear' delayed

  • 27/03/2016
People gather at the Place de la Bourse to pay tribute to the Brussels attack victims (Reuters)
People gather at the Place de la Bourse to pay tribute to the Brussels attack victims (Reuters)

By Barbara Lewis and Robin Emmott

Belgian prosecutors have charged three men with terrorist offences over the Brussels bomb attacks and authorities called off a planned "march against fear" in the jittery capital to relieve pressure on over-taxed police.

The suicide bomb attacks targeting Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train on Tuesday killed 31 people, including three of the attackers, and injured hundreds more. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Officials said 24 victims from nine different nationalities had been identified so far from the attacks. Four victims remain unidentified.

Of the three men charged on Saturday, Belgian prosecutors named one as Faycal C.

Belgian media identified him as Faycal Cheffou and said he was the man wearing a hat and a light-coloured jacket in last Tuesday's airport CCTV footage that showed three men pushing baggage trolleys bearing luggage.

The two others in the picture are believed to have blown themselves up.

Cheffou was charged with taking part in the activities of a terrorist group, and actual and attempted terrorist murder.

The other two charged on Saturday, Aboubakar A. and Rabah N., were accused of terrorist activities and membership of a terrorist group.

Rabah N. was wanted in connection with a related raid in France this week that authorities say foiled an apparent attack plot.

Brussels 'march against fear' delayed

Brussels airport (Reuters)

The authorities also said that a man arrested on Friday after being shot in the leg at a tram stop in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek was being held for a further 24 hours.

He was identified as Abderamane A. and was one of three people arrested on Friday.

That operation was linked to the arrest in Paris on Thursday of an Islamist convicted in Belgium last year and suspected of plotting a new attack, Belgian prosecutors said.

With Brussels still on high alert, organisers called off a "march against fear" planned for Sunday after officials urged people to stay away to spare over-taxed police.

"The security of our citizens is an absolute priority," said march organiser Emmanuel Foulon.

"We totally agree with the authorities' request to delay this plan for a later date."

Highlighting the jittery national mood, the murder this week of a security guard employed at a site in Belgium holding radioactive materials has stoked debate about the risks of militants attempting some kind of nuclear attack.

On Saturday prosecutors denied media reports the guard had had his access badge stolen and the implication it could have been a motive for his murder.

On Thursday, French language newspaper DH (Derniere Heure) had reported the suicide bombers who blew themselves up on Tuesday originally considered targeting a nuclear site, but the arrests of suspect militants forced them to speed up their plans and instead switch focus to Brussels.

Late last year, investigators found a video tracking the movements of a man linked to Belgium's nuclear industry during a search of a flat as part of investigations into the Islamist militant attacks on Paris on November 13.