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Suicide Bomber’s Brother Wins European Gold, Set for Rio Olympics | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Mourad Laachraoui, the brother of Najim Laachraoui who was involved in the Brussels airport bombing, has won gold in the European Taekwondo championships and in the process, securing qualification for Rio Olympics.- AFP

Mourad Laachraoui, a Belgian whose older brother was one of the suicide bombers in the terror attacks on Brussels has won gold at the European Taekwondo Championships.

He is now set to compete for Belgium at the Olympic Games in Brazil.

On Friday, Mourad won gold in the Under-54kg in Montreux, Switzerland, the Flemish taekwondo federation dubbing him “Europe’s king of the lightweights” in a tweet.

He beat 18-year-old Spanish fighter Jesus Tortosa 6-3 to claim the title.

Mourad is listed among Belgium’s 185-strong squad bound for the games in Rio De Janeiro starting on Aug. 5, where he will compete in the Under-58 kilogram category.

The 21-year-old athlete has said he was “scared and saddened” by his brother’s role in the attack on the Belgian capital in March.

Older brother Najim, 24, was one of two men who carried out devastating bomb attacks in the check-in area of Zaventem airport on 22 March. A third bomb was detonated at Maelbeek metro station shortly after, with a total of 32 people killed.

In a news conference two days after the attacks, Mourad said his brother was a smart boy and had given no signs of being radicalized before he left for Syria in 2013 and broke all contact with his family.

“He was a nice boy, and especially intelligent,” the younger brother added. “He played a bit of football, he read.”

“Our family has the same questions you all have,” he said. “He used to be a nice intelligent guy. I couldn’t believe it.”

Mourad had tried to contact his brother on Facebook in 2013, but got no response. “I’m not trying to understand. I’m trying to move on and turn the page,” he said shortly after the blasts.

A veteran jihadist fighter in Syria, electromechanics-trained Najim is also suspected of making explosive belts for last November’s Paris attacks, which killed 130 people.

“It’s crazy, really – the same parents, the same upbringing, and one turns out really well and the other really bad,” his lawyer Philippe Culot said in March.

“I was moved and stunned. I didn’t want to believe it was him, but you can’t choose your family,” Mourad remarked.