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Belgium Names Brussels bomber Brothers, Key Suspect on Run - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A man, whom Interpol said is named Khalid El Bakraoui, is seen in this undated photo issued by Interpol on their website and obtained March 23, 2016, after he was suspected of involvement in the Brussels airport and metro attack. REUTERS/Interpol/Handout via Reuters

A man, whom Interpol said is named Khalid El Bakraoui, is seen in this undated photo issued by Interpol on their website and obtained March 23, 2016, after he was suspected of involvement in the Brussels airport and metro attack. REUTERS/Interpol/Handout via Reuters

Belgium’s chief prosecutor named two brothers on Wednesday as ISIS suicide bombers who perpetrated the Brussels attacks killing at least 31 people but said another key suspect was on the run.

Tuesday’s most deadly attacks in Brussels, a city that is home to the European Union and NATO set off a ripple of alertness across Europe and around the world, with authorities rushing to review security at airports and on public transport. It also renewed debate about lagging European security cooperation and faults in police surveillance.

The federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw identified, in a news conference, brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui as the two suicide bombers who killed 32 people in Tuesday’s attacks. Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who was identified from fingerprints, blew himself up at Zaventem airport. He was seen in the center of CCTV footage released last night. Khalid el-Bakraoui, who is not thought to be on the airport CCTV, attacked the metro train at Maelbeek station.

Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, had left a will on a computer dumped in a rubbish bin near the militants’ hideout.

In it, he described himself as “always on the run, not knowing what to do anymore, being hunted everywhere, not being safe any longer and that if he hangs around, he risks ending up next to the person in a cell” – a reference to suspected Paris bomber Salah Abdeslam, 26, who was arrested last week.

His brother Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, detonated a bomb an hour later on a crowded rush-hour metro train near the European Commission headquarters, prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said.

Both men, born in Belgium, had criminal records for armed robbery but were not previously linked by investigators to jihadists.

Security experts believed the blasts were probably in preparation before Friday’s arrest of Abdeslam.

 The three suspects seen in CCTV footage from the airport.- AP

The three suspects seen in CCTV footage from the airport.- AP

At least 31 people were killed and about 271 wounded in the attacks, the prosecutor said. That toll could increase further because some of the bomb victims at Maelbeek metro station were blown to pieces and victims are hard to identify. Several survivors were still in critical condition.

The Bakraoui brothers were identified by their fingerprints and on security cameras, the prosecutor said. The second suicide bomber at the airport had yet to be identified and a third man, whom he did not name, had left the biggest bomb and run out of the terminal before the explosions.

Belgian media named that man as Najim Laachraoui, 25, a suspected ISIS recruiter and bomb-maker whose DNA was found on two explosives belts used in last November’s Paris attacks and at a Brussels safe house used by Abdeslam before his arrest last Friday.

Some media reported he had been captured in the Brussels borough of Anderlecht, but they later said the person detained was not Laachraoui.

Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name the apartment in the city’s Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week. He is also believed to have rented a safe house in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used to mount the Paris attacks.

The Syrian-based terrorist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, warning of “black days” for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq. Belgian warplanes have joined forces with the coalition in the Middle East, but Brussels has long been a center of jihad militancy.

A minute’s silence was observed across Belgium at noon. Prime Minister Charles Michel cancelled a trip to China and reviewed security measures with his inner cabinet before attending a memorial event at European Commission headquarters with King Philippe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“We are determined, admittedly with a strong feeling of pain in our stomachs, but determined to act,” Michel told a joint news conference with Valls. “France and Belgium are united in pain more than ever.”

Valls played down cross-border sniping over security, saying: “We must turn the page on naivete, a form of carefreeness that our societies have known.

“It is Europe that has been attacked. The response to terrorism must be European.”

Belgium’s crisis coordination center kept the level of security alert at the maximum as the man hunt continued. Some buses and trains were running but the metro and the airport were closed, along with key road tunnels in Brussels.

The attacks fueled political debate across the globe about how to combat militants.

“We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world,” said U.S. President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to succeed Obama in November’s U.S. election, suggested suspects could be tortured to avert such attacks.

After a tip-off from a taxi driver who unknowingly drove the bombers to the airport, police searched an apartment in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek late into the night, finding another bomb, an ISIS flag and bomb-making chemicals.

An unused explosive device was later found at the airport.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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