Metro suspect held by Brussels police: source

A Belgian police officer stands guard outside the metro station of Maalbeek in Brussels following bomb attacks in Brussels metro and the airport in Zaventem, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Roge/Pool - RTSBYNG

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian investigators believe a man arrested on Thursday was a suspected accomplice of the suicide bomber who killed about 20 people on the Brussels metro on Tuesday, a person familiar with the investigation said.

“We have strong indications that this is the suspect who was hunted for the last couple of days. The identification is still ongoing,” he said, referring to man caught on CCTV entering Maelbeek station with presumed bomber Khalid El Bakraoui.

The second man also carried a bag and it is not known whether he was also supposed to blow himself up on the metro.

Among seven people arrested, none appear to be the “third man” caught on Brussels airport CCTV with the two bombers who struck there, the source said. One bomber was Bakraoui’s elder brother Brahim and the other, investigators believe, was Najim Laachraoui, though the source said that was still unconfirmed.

Laachraoui’s wanted notice was removed from police websites on Friday, indicating he was no longer being sought.

A man arrested in Paris on Thursday was found as part of investigations into November’s Paris attacks but was linked to Islamist militants in Brussels blamed for this week’s attacks.

The source said that among those arrested in Brussels on Thursday were three people “stupidly hanging around” near the federal prosecutors office, the heavily guarded center of the investigation effort. The source said investigators were still trying to establish if they were reconnoitring an attack on the area.

Reporting by Paul Taylor; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alison Williams