Top Stories

Suspects in Brussels attacks identified

PERSONS OF INTEREST: Laachraoui (left) was last seen fleeing the terminal following the twin blasts at the airport. Khalid (centre) and Ibrahim El Bakraoui (right) are the two suspected suicide bombers.


    Mar 24, 2016

    Suspects in Brussels attacks identified


    BELGIAN police have identified a prime suspect in Tuesday's Brussels explosions and the two suspected suicide bombers, linking them directly to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who launched last November's Paris attacks, the Belgian media reported.

    Najim Laachraoui, a 24-year-old Moroccan-born Belgian, is believed to be the man in white seen on closed-circuit television footage alongside the bombers on Tuesday in Brussels Airport just before the blasts, reported the La Derniere Heure newspaper.

    He was last seen running away from the terminal following the twin blasts at the airport.

    Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 30, has been identified as the one who bombed the airport while his brother Khalid, 27, is believed to have blown himself up an hour later on a metro train, wrecking Maalbeek station, said RTBF broadcaster.

    Other reports said both were killed at the airport.

    The two Brussels residents had criminal records but had not previously been linked by investigators to terrorism.

    According to Catherine Herridge, correspondent for the United States' Fox News Channel, the gloves that the brothers were seen to be wearing on their left hands in the footage may have concealed detonator switches.

    When a suicide bomber loses the grip on the switch, it sets off the detonation, she said.

    The local media said the authorities had followed a tip from a taxi driver who may have driven the bombers to the airport.

    Investigators found an explosive device containing nails, chemical products and an ISIS flag during a raid on an apartment after the bombings.

    RTBF said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name an apartment in Belgium's Forest borough, where police hunting Salah Abdeslam - the last known survivor of the 10 Paris attackers - killed an Algerian gunman in a raid early last week.

    Belgian investigators have been hunting for Laachraoui since Monday following the arrest of Abdeslam on Friday.

    His DNA was found on almost all the explosives belts used in the attacks and at two Brussels hideouts, one used by Abdeslam last week.

    He travelled abroad as recently as last September with Abdeslam and is believed to have gone to Syria in February 2013, Agence France-Presse reported.

    The Syria-based ISIS has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks.

    The death toll in the attacks on Brussels rose to at least 31 with some 260 wounded, Health Minister Maggie de Block said on VRT television.