European authorities continued Saturday the complex task of unraveling the plot behind the horrific bombings in Brussels four days earlier — announcing that they had charged one individual with “terrorist murder.”
The person, who was identified only as “Faycal C.” by Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office, was arrested Thursday by Belgian authorities and formally charged Friday. Authorities didn’t specify what role the person is suspected of having in the bombings at Brussels Airport and a downtown subway station that left 31 people dead and more than 300 injured.
In addition to terrorist murder, Faycal C. faces charges of “participation in terrorist activities” and “attempted terrorist murder,” officials said.
No weapons or explosives were found in the person’s home when Belgian authorities carried out a raid Thursday, the office said. Further details about Faycal C. were not immediately available.
Authorities said 24 of the 31 victims have been positively identified: 13 were Belgians, and 11 were foreigners from eight nationalities.
Residents of Brussels were trying, against the odds, to return to some sense of normalcy in the wake of Tuesday’s attacks.
But the task was complicated by the continuing official manhunt, complete with its raids, gunfire, explosions and live press conferences. Officials were working with a sense of urgency — trying not only to assign responsibility for the attack, but to prevent future attacks — some of which may be in the planning stages — as well.
At least nine people have been arrested in Europe in recent days. Six people were taken into custody Thursday night into Friday morning in Belgium. Three of those have since been released.
Police struggle to prevent another attack — and repair their reputation
The officials said Saturday that another man, arrested Friday at a subway station in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels, had not been charged. But a judge has allowed him to be held for another 24 hours, pending investigation.
And a person identified only as “Aboubakar A.” has been arrested and charged with participation in activities of a terrorist group, officials said. They did not say when or where he was arrested.
Public nerves around Brussels were still jangling Saturday, not only from the explosions and arrests, but from the he bitter fact that Brussels is now the capital not only of Belgium and Europe, but also of Europe’s fight against terrorism.
A peace march scheduled for Sunday in Brussels has been canceled amid security concerns, according to an organizer, Sophie Barthélemi. She said authorities requested the event be postponed. A new date has not been set.
“For sure we will do this event later,” she said via email.
More police raids will doubtless come in the future as authorities try to capture the missing men.
One Belgian resident said his son, who has a shop in an area that is now closed, saw an armed person emerge from a metro shop and get shot in the leg by police.
The operation ended with the arrest of one person linked to the terror attacks, Schaerbeek Mayor Bernard Clerfayt told public broadcaster RTBF.
The mayor said the arrested person was wounded. It was not clear if that person was the same one the shopkeeper saw get shot in the leg.
In Brussels this week, soldiers lined the streets near the central subway station, their hands gripping guns. And people were worried.
“We all know that we are not safe anywhere,” one woman said. “It can happen anywhere and at any moment.”
The effects are felt in neighborhoods swarmed by police, and near the sites of attacks. Brussels Airport won’t recommence passenger flights until Tuesday, at the earliest.
More metro stations have reopened, covering about about half of the city’s nearly 80 stops. But they close at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 1 a.m.
Some trains are running through Maelbeek station, though it remains closed.
The city has “the feeling of war,” one Belgian man said.
Other people welcome the added security.
“It makes me safe,” one woman said.
In the Maelbeek train station, a large, white wreath was left by the Pompes Funebres Islamiques (Islamic Funeral Co.). The man who left the flowers said they were leaving others at other sites in Brussels. And even though he declined an interview, he told CNN, “the terrorists were not real Muslims.”
Children also left notes among the flowers at Maelbeek with messages:
“Let’s stay united against this fear,” one said.
“Let’s show them we are not afraid.,” read other
“I am Muslim,” said still another. “Peace please.”
Can Europe stop the next attack?
Friday’s raid came just days after police, acting on a tip from the taxi driver who took the alleged attackers to the airport, raided an apartment in Schaerbeek and discovered 15 kilos (33 pounds) of the explosive TATP, chemicals, a suitcase containing nails and screws, and other equipment meant to make explosives, along with an ISIS flag, Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said.
French and Belgian police also are cooperating on what authorities say was a thwarted attack plot in the Paris area.
On Thursday, French police arrested Reda Kriket, 34, near Paris on suspicion of being in an “advance stage” of planning his own attack. Afterward, law enforcement found 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of TATP and a Kalashnikov rifle in a raid in on his apartment in Argenteuil, on Paris’ outskirts, a source briefed on the investigation said.
On Saturday, Belgian authorities said they arrested someone named “Rabah N.” in connection with the investigation into Kriket. Rabah N. is charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist group, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said; information on where and when he was arrested wasn’t immediately available.
Investigators know of additional plots in Europe, in various stages of planning, linked to the same networks that were behind the November Paris attacks and the latest ones in Brussels, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials. Those terrorists are tied to ISIS, the Islamist extremist group that has taken over swaths of Syria and Iraq while also staging attacks elsewhere around the world.
Belgium, especially, has come under fire. Interior Minister Jan Jambon offered to resign after acknowledging missed opportunities to stop one of the suicide bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said he talked with Kerry about how “to do better (and) work together to be more efficient.”
Michel said, “We need to accept that we need to improve the fight against terrorism in Europe and in Belgium.”