Brussels bombing suspect ‘talking’

A Swedish man held in Belgium on suspicion of taking part in last month’s Islamic State attacks on Brussels is talking to investigators, his lawyer says, after Osama Krayem’s detention was extended by a month.

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Krayem, who was charged with terrorist murder after his arrest in Brussels last Friday, is accused of being the man seen with suicide bomber Khalid El Bakraoui minutes before he blew himself up on a metro train.

Police are still searching for a rucksack Krayem was carrying that may have contained a bomb.

“He walked away. He turned back,” defence counsel Vincent Lurquin told reporters on Thursday. “We must ask ourselves why?”

“He’s talking. That means the investigation is progressing,” Lurquin added, saying his client’s cooperation could help understand what motivated the attackers and who gave the orders.

Among five other suspects whose detention was extended by a month was Mohamed Abrini.

He is accused of having accompanied two suicide bombers to Brussels Airport before leaving behind a bomb in a bag and walking back into the city.

Belgian media group Sudpresse quoted an unidentified source as saying Abrini had told a magistrate he had been forced to go to the airport but had not detonated his device: “I was never in Syria. I wouldn’t hurt a fly,” it quoted Abrini, 31, as saying.

On the run since November’s Paris attacks, Abrini was dubbed the “man in the hat” after he was seen on CCTV on March 22 with airport bombers Najim Laachraoui and Brahim El Bakraoui, elder brother of the metro bomber El Bakraoui.

Sudpresse said Abrini blamed the Bakraouis for forcing him.

Their plan, he said, was to hit three check-in lines – for flights to the United States, Russia and Israel.

Separately on Thursday, a Brussels appeal court increased to 15 years from 12 the sentence handed down last July to Khalid Zerkani for recruiting young Belgians to fight in Syria.