2016 Brussels terror attacks: The ten on trial
Ten defendants are standing trial for the 2016 Brussels attacks in which 32 people were killed and around 340 injured. Jury selection for the trial starts on 30 November and the entire procedure is expected to last nine months. Among the ten on trial are ringleaders Salah Abdeslam, Mohammed Abrini and Ossama Krayem, who earlier this year were convicted of orchestrating the November 2015 Paris attacks. Here is an overview of the defendants:
Salah Abdeslam (31) was already in prison at the time of the Brussels attacks but is believed to have played a role in organising them. Police arrested him in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean on 18 March 2016. Three days earlier, his fingerprints were found in a safe house in the Brussels municipality of Forest during a house search that escalated into a shooting. The Brussels-born Frenchman was handed over to French authorities for his involvement in the 2015 Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed. Whilst on trial in France, Abdeslam was sentenced in Belgium to 20 years in prison for the Forest shooting. His trial in France earlier this year resulted in a life prison sentence. He has been detained in a Belgian prison in Ittre since July, awaiting trial in Brussels.
Tunisian Sofien Ayari (27), also known as “Amine Choukri” and “Monir Ahmed Alaaj”, was arrested in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean along with Salah Abdeslam. Ayari and Abdeslam had already been stopped by police in the German city of Ulm in October 2015, possibly after returning from Syria. Ayari also received a 20-year prison sentence for the shooting in Forest. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison at the Paris attack trial, at least two-thirds of which he must serve in full.
Oussama Atar (33) is suspected of leading the Paris and Brussels attacks from Syria under the pseudonym “Abu Ahmed”. He is a cousin of the El Bakraoui brothers, who carried out suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels. Atar was detained in Iraq in 2005, allegedly for arms smuggling, but was released in 2010 under Belgian political pressure. He is believed to have been killed in an airstrike in Syria in November 2017.
Wanted since the 2015 Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini (36) was arrested in the Brussels municipality of Anderlecht on 8 April 2016. Surveillance footage showed him and Salah Abdeslam at a service station on the highway to Paris two days before the Paris attacks. After his arrest, Abrini confessed to being the "man in the hat" who was pictured by surveillance cameras at Brussels Airport shortly before his two accomplices carried out suicide attacks in the airport departure hall. Abrini fled the scene leaving behind his luggage, later found to contain the greatest load of explosives. In June, he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Paris attacks. Nicknamed ‘Brioche’, Abrini will have to serve at least 22 years of his life sentence.
Syrian-Swedish Ossama Krayem (28) was arrested in the Brussels municipality of Laeken on 8 April 2016. He was filmed in Brussels in the Pétillon metro station shortly before the attack in Maelbeek metro station. Footage shows him fleetingly exchanging a few words with Khalid El Bakraoui, the man who detonated the suicide bomb in Maelbeek. Also known under the false Syrian identity of “Naïm Al Hamed”, Krayem was supposed to carry out a suicide attack at Maelbeek but backed out. He poured his explosive down the toilet of a flat that he and Khalid El Bakraoui had used as a safe house in the Brussels municipality of Etterbeek. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison at the Paris attack trial and must serve at least two-thirds in full.
Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa
Rwandan national Hervé Bayingana Muhirwa (35) was arrested alongside Ossama Krayem. He is suspected of having helped hide both Ossama Krayem and Mohamed Abrini.
Bilal El Makhoukhi
Bilal El Makhoukhi (31) was also arrested in Laeken on 8 April 2016. In 2015, he was found guilty of terrorist acts as one of 45 members of the Sharia4Belgium group that sent jihadists to Syria. El Makhoukhi, who lost a leg in Syria, is suspected of having helped Ossama Krayem and Mohamed Abrini. There are also suspicions that he is the so-called “Abu Imran" referred to in audio conversations found on a laptop retrieved from a rubbish bin next to the safe house in Schaerbeek. The conversations identify Abu Imran as someone who could provide weapons to potential terrorists.
Ali El Haddad Asufi
Ali El Haddad Asufi (36) was arrested and then released on 24 March 2016, only to be arrested again in Schaerbeek on 9 June the same year. Surveillance footage shows him at the safe house in the Brussels municipality of Etterbeek. He allegedly helped his childhood friend Khalid El Bakraoui move into the safe house. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison at the Paris attack trial, at least two-thirds of which he must serve in full.
Ibrahim Farisi (32) was arrested on 11 April 2016 along with his brother Smail. Ibrahim helped his brother empty and clean the safe house in Etterbeek after the Brussels attacks.
Smail Farisi (36) lent a flat he rented in the Brussels municipality of Etterbeek to Khalid El Bakraoui, who carried out a suicide bombing at the Maelbeek metro station and helped prepare the 2015 Paris attacks. El Bakraoui and Ossama Krayem, who was also supposed to carry out a suicide attack at Maelbeek station but backed out, used the flat as a safe house in the lead-up to the attacks.
Brussels Philharmonic and Flemish Radio Choir perform 'Ode An die Freude' at La Bourse in Brussels to pay tribute to the victims of the 2016 Brussels terror attacks © BELGA PHOTO AURORE BELOT