The Belgian media has managed to put names to the faces of the two suicide bombers who attacked the international airport in Brussels as well as the metro station, and it turns out they are brothers by the names of Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui. It has also been revealed by the RTBF broadcaster that the police are not unfamiliar with the pair.
The state broadcaster is citing a police source in the revelation of this new information and states that prior to these attacks, the brothers were familiar to the police but more for their involvement in organized crime than for any involvement in terrorism. Twenty-seven-year-old Khalid and 30-year-old Ibrahim Bakraoui were originally said to be among three men who were reportedly seen in the departure area of the Brussels airport only moments before the bomb went off. The explosion killed 14 persons and injured dozens more. However, the Independent reported that new information from the authorities on the suicide bombers revealed that Khalid killed himself at the metro, while Ibrahim was killed at the airport.
The police had issued arrest warrants for both brothers following a raid on their apartment last week. Sources explained that the two brothers had been renting an apartment in Brussels prior to the attacks. Khalid el-Bakraoui had rented the apartment under a false name in the Forest area of the capital of Belgium. One gunman was killed when last week’s raid on the flat resulted in a shootout and the two brothers escaped.
Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure advised that the CCTV image, which authorities had released to the public earlier, contained three men. The publication reports his identity as Najim Laachraoui, who is wanted by police as an accomplice of Salah Abdeslam as well. The raid had revealed a widespread terrorist plot, and the fingerprints of Salah Abdeslam, who was the main suspect in the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, were recovered at the scene. Abdeslam was arrested in a different raid on Friday.
The third suspect was captured on tape along with the brothers as he pushed a loaded trolley through the capital’s Zaventem airport. He was the only one of the three still alive, and after an extensive manhunt, he has been captured and detained in Anderlecht, which is due west of Brussels.
Ibrahim el-Bakraoui is believed to have detonated one of two devices, which exploded at the airport. The suicide bomber killed himself, at least 11 others, and injured more than 90 people in his attack. The RTBF said that Khalid el-Bakraoui was responsible for a third explosion, this one in a Brussels metro carriage at the station on the rue de la Loi; the offices of the European commission are only about 250 meters away from the site of the bombing. According to the Guardian, that attack left at least 14 people dead and over 130 wounded.
Investigators are attempting to obtain as much information as possible about the Brussels attack from the rented apartment, including trying to identify the material used to create the explosives in the quest to locate the terrorist network that took part in the planning of the attacks. There was also a large stash of ammunitions found. Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure said Khalid el-Bakraoui was wanted in connection to terrorist activities after spending nine years behind bars for shooting a police officer during a robbery, while Ibrahim was imprisoned a year later in 2011 for car-jackings.
The Tuesday morning attacks in Brussels were twofold and saw twin explosions occurring in the city: one at the airport and another at a metro station in Maelbeek. Combined, the terrorist attacks left approximately 30 persons dead and 250 wounded. The attacks left Belgium in a state of mourning that shall be observed nationally for three days.
At midday (11:00 GMT), a minute of silence was held in honor of the victims. Upon its conclusion, some persons could be heard cheering, and at least one person could be heard shouting “long live Belgium.”
[Photo by Valentin Bianchi/AP]