Belgium frees charged suspect in blow to bombing investigation

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Brussels, March 29: Belgian prosecutors on Monday released a man they had charged in connection with last week’s deadly Brussels bombings, saying they did not have enough information to justify holding him.

The man, named only as Faycal C., had been accused of taking part in the activities of a terrorist group and actual and attempted terrorist murder after being detained on Thursday. His home had been searched but no weapons or explosives had been found.

“The evidence which led to the arrest of the man named as Faycal C has not been backed up by the ongoing investigation. As a result, the person has been freed by the investigating magistrate,” the prosecutor’s office said.

The announcement was a major blow to an investigation that had netted half a dozen people charged with lesser offences in Belgium and others in the Netherlands, Italy and France, where officials said the same network had planned another attack.

Belgian media had identified the man as Faycal Cheffou and a source close to the investigation had said officials believed he was the man caught in security camera footage at Brussels airport moments before two bombs exploded last Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, police had issued a new appeal for witnesses, saying they were seeking to identify the man seen in the video wearing a light jacket, with a hat pulled down over his face and glasses. The suspected suicide bombers walking alongside him were dressed in black with their heads uncovered.

Police say one man left a suitcase containing a bomb at the terminal and fled while two others detonated their bombs.

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The death toll from the attack on the airport, and a subsequent bombing of a rush-hour metro train, rose to 35 on Monday, excluding the three men who blew themselves up.

Around 340 people were wounded and 96 were still being treated in hospital, of whom 55 were in intensive care, a health ministry statement said.

A Europe-wide hunt for suspects has revealed links with the network that killed 130 people in Paris last November, as well as foiling a new potential attack on France last week, officials said. But several suspects are reported to be still at large.

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