Trial of the attacks in Brussels: the testimony of the taxi driver who took Abrini, El Bakraoui and Laachraoui to the airport

Trial of the attacks in Brussels: the testimony of the taxi driver who took Abrini, El Bakraoui and Laachraoui to the airport

The video montage of the reconstruction of the taxi journey which took the two suicide bombers and the accused Mohamed Abrini to Zaventem airport on March 22, 2016 was broadcast on Wednesday morning before the Brussels Assize Court.

A 8:20 a.m. on March 22, 2016, about twenty minutes after the two explosions that killed 16 people at Zaventem airport, the taxi driver who took the suicide bombers and the accused Mohamed Abrini went to a police station in the center of Brussels . As soon as he learns that attacks have been committed at the airport, the man has doubts about the three individuals he dropped off that morning, explained Wednesday morning, before the Assize Court, a commissioner from police.

The hearing of this taxi driver will prove decisive in the investigation into the attacks of March 22, 2016, allowing the police to discover the address of rue Max Roos, where several important clues – including a computer – will be found .

The taxi driver was heard on March 22, 2016 between 8:29 a.m. and 9:31 a.m. It appears that he picked up three individuals, rue Max Roos, in Schaerbeek, at 7.08 a.m. and took them to Zaventem airport, where he arrived at 7.33 a.m. Each had a black cloth suitcase, giving off a strong chemical smell, according to the words of the taxi driver. This luggage, identical, seemed heavy but the customers refused the help of the driver, either to load or unload it.

The driver describes the three men of North African type, speaking French for two of them, the third having not spoken. One wore bright clothes, another a hat. He describes them as calm, all three.

Reenactment

The taxi driver returned to several elements, in particular his arrival at 4, rue Max Roos.

When he can’t find the reservation name (Serra) on the doorbell, he calls the taxi center to get the phone number who ordered the vehicle. He rings, twice, with no answer. He is about to leave when a man shouts to him from a high floor that “they are coming”.

“I get out of the taxi, I open the trunk (…) I wait, but I activate my taximeter. They take their time getting out,” he explained that day.

It is Ibrahim El Bakraoui who arrives first and places his black cloth bag in the trunk, straight up. Then Abrini, followed by Laachraoui.


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The first explains to the taxi driver that they are going to the airport, but does not seem to be able to situate the geography of the Region well, he is particularly surprised that the car goes through NATO to reach Zaventem.

It is El Bakraoui who makes the conversation, the other two (the version differs from an audition to the reconstitution) seem for one stressed, for the other in his thoughts. He tells the driver that they are students, come to Brussels for vacation, then digresses on the Americans. “They brought violence to the world (…) Have you seen what they are doing to black people in the United States?! “, he says to the driver, himself black.

Once at their destination, everyone takes their suitcase, again refusing the help of the driver. Abrini, then presented as “the man with the hat”, fetches a cart. El Bakraoui greets the driver with “maybe we will meet again one day”.


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Leaving Zaventem, the driver drives with all windows open on the highway “it stank so badly” in the car. He received another order, from Schaerbeek to Place du Jeu de Balle. It is with his client that he hears that there have been explosions at the airport, he tells her of his doubts about the three people he transported before her. “She said to me: if you have any doubts, you have to go and see the police. “And that’s how he finds himself, from 8:20 am, in a police station in the Marolles.

Survey results

Investigators also found traces of the phone call that made it possible to reserve the vehicle, made at 6:26 a.m. that morning. The number was identified, the investigators later determining that it was passed via a prepaid card in the name of David Olive Serra, a false identity used by Najim Laachraoui. It was the latter who made the call, according to the investigators. The man asks for a van, specifying that it is necessary to transport “several people” and that there is “a lot of luggage”. A minivan will be offered to him, which he accepts.


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The images from cameras, placed on the route, also allowed the investigators to decide between the version given by the taxi driver, according to which the three individuals were seated in the back of the vehicle, and that of the accused Mohamed Abrini, who affirms that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was seated at the front. According to the investigators, the three individuals were seated in the back. An important element, according to the investigating judges, because the taxi driver testifies to remarks made by the suspects according to the place in which they were seated.



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