Arrested terror suspect Mohamed Abrini has been positively identified as the “man in the hat” wanted in connection with the bombing last month at the Brussels Airport, Belgian prosecutors said Saturday.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Brussels said Abrini confessed to being the third man present at Brussels Airport during the March 22 suicide bombings there.
Authorities have been frantically seeking the "man in the hat" ever since he was captured on video alongside the two bombers just before the airport attack that killed 16 people.
Belgian authorities recently released more footage of the man leaving the airport in the wake of the bombings, walking down sidewalks and past a hotel.
Abrini was arrested Friday in Brussels in a police raid. The prosecutor's office said Saturday that Abrini "confessed his presence at the crime scene" after being confronted by investigators.
“He explained having thrown away his (explosive) vest in a garbage bin and having sold his hat afterward,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Abrini was one of four suspects charged Saturday with "participating in terrorist acts" linked to the deadly Brussels suicide bombings that killed 32 people and wounded 270 others at the airport and at the city's Maelbeek subway station.
Belgian prosecutors said fingerprints and DNA from Abrini had been found in a Renault Clio used in the Paris attacks, and in an apartment in the Forest area of the Belgian capital that was used by Salah Abdeslam, another Paris suspect, as a hideout until police stumbled upon it.
Abdeslam was arrested on March 18 and is being held in a prison in the Belgian city of Bruges. His lawyer said Thursday that his extradition to France will take weeks to happen.
Prosecutors in March said Abdeslam planned to blow himself up outside France’s national stadium during the Paris attacks, but backed out at the last minute.
Abrini's precise role in the Paris attacks has never been clear. He is a 31-year-old Belgian-Moroccan petty criminal believed to have traveled early last summer to Syria where his younger brother died in 2014 in the Islamic State terror group's notorious francophone brigade.
He had not resurfaced since the emergence of surveillance video placing him in the convoy with the attackers headed to Paris. He had ties to Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the ringleader of the Paris attacks who died in a police standoff on Nov. 18, and is a childhood friend of brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam. Abrini was traveling with Salah Abdeslam in the convoy headed to Paris in the 36 hours leading up to the attacks.
He went multiple times to Birmingham, England, last year, meeting with several men suspected of terrorist activity, a European security official has told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide details on the investigation. He said the meetings, including one later last summer, took place in several locations, including cafes and apartments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.