By Reuters and VICE News
Belgium has confirmed the identities of two of the assailants in the Brussels airport and metro attacks that left 31 dead, with the country’s federal prosecutor Frederic van Leeuw naming a pair of brothers among the suicide bombers.
A third attacker, seen in CCTV footage from the airport on Tuesday, fled the scene and is currently the subject of a manhunt. Authorities have yet to identify him.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, the prosecutor said Ibrahim el Bakraoui was one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attack at Brussels’ Zaventem airport, where two explosions went off on Tuesday morning. He was reportedly behind the first bomb.
The official also identified his brother, Khalid, as the man behind the blast at Maelbeek metro station, which occurred shortly after the airport violence. The latest death toll between the two attacks is 31 people. Both of the brothers were born in Belgium and had police records for armed robbery, but with no previously known links to Islamic militants. They pair was identified by security camera footage and fingerprints.
The man currently on the run has not been identified. Earlier on Wednesday, Belgian media reported that a prime suspect in the attacks had been detained. They initially identified the man as Najim Laachraoui, but these reports were later retracted.
In Photos: The Streets of Brussels After the Attacks
DH, which first reported the story, also said the man detained in the Anderlecht district had been misidentified. Laachraoui’s DNA had been found in houses used by the Paris attackers last year, prosecutors said on Monday, adding that he had traveled to Hungary in September with Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam.
Some reports have named Laachraoui as the third attacker who fled the airport, pictured wearing a white hate, but authorities have yet to confirm this.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that one of the Brussels assailants was deported last June from Turkey, which subsequently warned Belgium that he was a militant.
Speaking at a news conference, Erdogan said that the man was deported to the Netherlands at his own request and Turkey also notified Dutch authorities.The individual was identified by the president as Ibrahim el Bakraoui saying that Belgian authorities ultimately released him from custody after finding “no links with terrorism.”
The first bomb at the airport went off near desk 11 at 7.58am local time and the second followed nine seconds later near desk two of the departure hall, Van Leeuw said.
According to the federal prosecutor, the three men took a taxi to the airport. The official also confirmed that the suspects had originated from the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek. Authorities have already searched an apartment in the area and they uncovered a laptop, along with a note from Ibrahim declaring that he wanted didn’t want to end up in prison.
The prosecutor reported that Ibrahim’s note, which has been identified as a will, said: “Always on the run, not knowing what to do anymore, being looked for everywhere, not being safe any longer and that if he waits around any longer he risks ending up next to the person in a cell.”
During the press conference, Van Leeuw said it was “too early to make a direct connection between the attacks in Paris” in November and the bombings in Brussels.
The country observed a moment of silence at 12pm on Wednesday, followed by a joint press conference with Prime Minister Charles Michel and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Michel had cancelled a previously scheduled trip to China in order to remain in Belgium.
“We are determined, admittedly with a strong feeling of pain in our stomachs, but determined to act,” Michel said. “France and Belgium are united in pain more than ever.”
The security alert in Belgium has been kept at the highest level, while the metro system and Brussels airport stayed closed for a second day. Some trains and buses were back up and running.
Two people have so far been taken into custody for questioning, one of whom was released. At a raid in Schaerbeek on Tuesday night police found 15kg of explosives, 150 liters of acetone, 30 liters of oxygenated water, detonators, and a suitcase filled with screws and nails as well as materials, such as plastic boxes, needed to pack up the explosives.
What We Know So Far About the Brussels Attacks
Ibrahim, 29, had rented under a false name a flat in the Forest borough of the Belgian capital where police killed a gunman in a raid last week, RTBF said.
In the raid, investigators found an Islamic State (IS) flag, an assault rifle, detonators, and a fingerprint of Abdeslam, who was arrested three days later.
Van Leeuw said raids were taking place throughout Belgium, but he declined to provide any further details out of concern for hindering the efforts. – Vice News