Belgium Suicide Bombers Identified As Brothers; Third Suspect Evades Arrest

Belgium Suicide Bombers Identified As Brothers; Third Suspect Evades Arrest

Tyler Durden’s pictureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/23/2016

Update: As Belgium prosecutors briefed moments ago, the third suspect at the airport bombing, (presumed to be Laachraoui), remains on the run.

Update: Belgian media have withdrawn a report claiming that Najim Laachraoui has been arrested.

Hours after two explosions ripped through the Brussels airport on Tuesday morning killing 10 and wounding scores more, a grainy image was released by authorities that appeared to show three suspects.

The men are seen walking through the airport, each pushing a luggage trolley. Two of the men are wearing black gloves on their left hand, presumably to hide detonators. One of those two suspects was identified Wednesday as Brahim El Bakraoui, 30. His brother Khalid, 27, was reportedly responsbile for the metro bombing.

They escaped from last week’s anti-terror raids that left one jihadi dead and led to the capture of Salah Abdeslam.

Last Tuesday, police closed in on a residence in the Brussels suburb of Forest. Armed officers donning bulletproof vests entered the building and immediately began taking fire when they approached an apartment door. One jihadi was killed in that raid but at least two suspects escaped. The raid, prosecutors said, didn’t target “most wanted fugitives” but rather a  “second ring” of suspects who were expected to be “valuable sources of information.”

“Valuable,” indeed. That home was reportedly rented by Khalid El Bakraoui and it seems likely that he and his brother may have been among those who fled across rooftops and evaded police.

Sadly that was (bloody) water under the bridge by Tuesday afternoon because both brothers had by that time blown themselves up in front of an airport Starbucks. More pressing was the capture of the third man seen in the airport surveillance footage, identified as Najim Laachraoui. Police had been looking for Laachraoui since at least Friday when Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam was captured in Molenbeek.

Laachraoui traveled to Syria in 2013 and was going by the name Soufiane Kayal. He was with Abdeslam when he passed through a checkpoint between Austria and Hungary last September. “A man using the false identity of Soufiane Kayal later rented a house in the town of Auvelais, about 30 miles south of Brussels, that was searched on Nov. 26,” The New York Times reported on Monday, adding that “authorities found Mr. Laachraoui’s DNA at the house in Auvelais and also at a house on Rue Henri Bergé, in the Schaerbeek section of Brussels, that was searched on Dec. 10. In the property on Rue Henri Bergé, investigators found traces of TATP, which has become the signature explosive for Islamic State operations in Europe.” Here is the image from Laachraoui’s fake ID card:

Laachraoui studied electromechanical engineering in Schaerbeek, and police say his DNA was found on explosives used in the Paris attacks. He was, apparently, an ISIS bomb maker, which would explain why the group may have planned for him to escape the airport attacks unscathed.

If Belgian media is to be believed, Laachraoui’s run as Europe’s most wanted man didn’t last long. According to La Dernière Heurethe 25-year-old was just arrested in the city’s Anderlecht district (as noted above, there are now conflicting reports).

In other words, the two bombers in Tuesday’s airport attack were very nearly caught exactly one week earlier and were deemed by police to be targets of secondary importance while the bomb maker has been known to investigators since at least last September. Laachraoui has variously led authorities on a wild goose chase around Brussels since December when his DNA and TATP were found at a home in Schaerbeek, the same place where a taxi driver picked up the three airport assailants on Tuesday and the same place where Laachraoui studied to be an electrical engineer.

All of this speaks to the fact that EU authorities are perpetually one (or two or three) steps behind. “We have not a bad amount of pieces of the puzzle and in the last few days several pieces have found their place,” Belgian investigators said Monday, patting themselves on the back for the raid that linked Laachraoui to the Paris attacks. “But,” they said, “we are still, far from solving the puzzle.” 

Less than 24 hours later, explosives likely crafted by Laachraoui killed 30 people. The “puzzle” has now been solved. One day too late.

Leave a Reply