A few days after last week’s terror attacks in Brussels it emerged that one of the three suspects caught on camera at the airport — “the man in the white coat” or “the man in the hat” — was named Fayçal Cheffou. Unlike his companions, who detonated their devices and died in the blast, Mr. Cheffou fled the scene and was arrested later.
Fayçal Cheffou is said to be a former freelance journalist who became a mujahid. However, as far as anyone can tell, his sole journalistic contribution is the video report below from 2014, in which he laments the cruel, sadistic treatment of Muslim inmates at an immigrant detention center during the month of their Ramadan fast.
Below is a report from The Independent describing Mr. Cheffou’s part in last Tuesday’s massacre and his previous career, such as it was:
Faycal Cheffou: Who is the ‘freelance journalist’ charged with terrorist murders after Isis Brussels attacks?
A man who once claimed to be a freelance journalist has been charged with “terrorist murders” following the Brussels attacks.
There is growing speculation that Fayçal Cheffou could be the fugitive “man in the hat” seen with the two airport bombers on CCTV but prosecutors have not confirmed his exact role.
A statement on Saturday said that he had been charged with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders and attempted terrorist murders” in connection with the explosions at Brussels Airport and Maelbeek Metro station.
Belgian media report that Mr Cheffou is the man pictured wearing a distinctive white coat and hat alongside suicide bombers Najim Laachraoui and Brahim el-Bakraoui in the departures terminal on Tuesday morning.
The suspected Isis militants died when they detonated the suitcase bombs they were wheeling on luggage trolleys but the third and most powerful device, believed to be the third man’s, was found unexploded after he fled the scene.
Little over an hour later, Khalid el-Bakraoui blew himself up at Maelbeek Metro station.
A taxi driver who drove the trio to the airport identified Cheffou as one of his passengers from photographs, Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported, but prosecutors have not confirmed the claim.
Cheffou was arrested near the federal prosecutor’s office in Brussels on Thursday evening alongside a man and woman who have since been released.
Their relationship and the reason for their presence in the area was unclear.
A search conducted at Cheffou’s home found no weapons or explosives, according to the federal prosecutor’s office.
Little appears to be known about the man, who has no Facebook profile under his name and despite apparently claiming to be a “freelance journalist”, is known for only one report.
In a video uploaded to YouTube two years ago, Cheffou reports from outside an immigration detention centre in the Belgian province of Steenokkerzeel.
With shouting and banging clearly audible from the building in the background, he claims the migrants and asylum seekers are protesting inside because they have not been fed.
|00:04||Repression in detention centre 127bis. Humans deprived of food 15.7.2014|
|00:08||We are in front of the centre. If you hear the detainees in revolt, it’s because|
|00:12||they have been mistreated throughout the evening, we hear.|
|00:16||We are in communication with certain persons who are in the centre,|
|00:20||and we will try to find out more.|
|00:53||Hello, Faycal Cheffou speaking, I am a journalist. I’m here to find out|
|00:57||a little more. You must contact|
|01:01||tomorrow… ehh… someone in Brussels.|
|01:05||Well okay, I will, but now, I want to know what is happening now.|
|01:13||It is better to come tomorrow. Yes but you can’t|
|01:17||tell us what is happening? No, no, I cannot.|
|01:21||I’m sorry. OK, you don’t have a spokesman?|
|01:25||Good evening. We are in front|
|01:29||of the centre 127bis in Steenokkerzeel. The cries you hear behind me|
|01:34||are cries of the detainees who are dissatisfied because|
|01:38||they are forgotten and they have been refused food. The majority of these people|
|01:42||are fasting, it’s the month of Ramadan.|
|01:46||They are fasting and the prison’s policy is to serve|
|01:50||three meals per day, and after 7pm this stops.|
|01:54||These people only eat starting at 10pm, so they|
|01:58||find themselves without food, completely forgotten by the rest of the world.|
|02:02||I am in front of the prison, and there is nobody, except|
|02:06||me and my camera man. We are all alone,|
|02:11||while there is no politician, no media, nobody.|
|02:15||So the cries of these people —|
|02:19||it’s only a field that can hear these cries. I find this|
|02:23||totally disrespectful of human rights,|
|02:27||and the information we have received is that two people were transported to the hospital.|
|02:31||One or two people are in|
|02:35||a dungeon, simply because they have protested and asked that they be fed.|
|02:39||I am perturbed by the noise and the cries I hear behind me,|
|02:43||because it’s a call for help to the world, but it seems that one forgets|
|02:47||them completely. We just had elections|
|02:51||where the politicians promised us many things, but we cannot find even one|
|02:55||today. I call upon all human beings|
|02:59||who wish to defend human dignity of every|
|03:04||human being. These people are illegal residents in Belgium,|
|03:08||and are completely forgotten because their only crime|
|03:12||is to be without documents.|
|03:16||It’s really…what will we try to do…? We will try|
|03:20||to make contact with a person who is inside. What I can tell you|
|03:24||is that there is repression inside. The prison management refuses|
|03:28||to communicate, refuses any element.|
|03:32||so I will be back in some minutes trying to find out more.|
|03:36||Can you explain what is happening inside?|
|03:44||(broken French) …no giving meals to people…|
|03:52||…no eating… (unclear)|
|03:56||So if I have understood correctly, the prison|
|04:01||refuses to give you food while you are fasting.|
|04:05||(unclear broken French)|
|04:33||We have filmed everything.|
|04:37||we have filmed everything you said; we filmed your cries.|
|04:49||Good, what we will try to do|
|04:53||is to alert a maximum number of people|
|04:58||to your situation. This video, insh’allah, will be on the internet tomorrow.|
|05:02||What message can you give us? And there I will ask for a little silence from everyone|
|05:06||so that we can hear your message. What do you want to say|
|05:10||to the people who listen to you? OK understood.|
|05:18||(note by translator: the rest of the message is unclear)