Sunday

21st Jul 2019

Brussels attacker felt ‘hunted everywhere’

  • Brussels police. If searches "go on for too long, I risk end up in a cell next to him,” El Bakraoui wrote in his testament (Photo: Reuters)

Belgian prosecutors on Wednesday (23 March) confirmed the identities of two brothers who committed the suicide attacks in Brussels one day earlier.

But one suspect has not yet been identified and another is still on the run, as the manhunt continues in the Belgian and EU capital.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, blew himself up at a check-in counter at Brussels Zaventem airport shortly before 8am on Tuesday. His brother, Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, carried out the suicide attack in the Maelbeek metro station, near the EU institutions, about one hour later.

Federal prosecutor Frederic van Leeuw told reporters that out of the three men spotted by CCTV cameras at the airport, one of them has not been identified while the third, named as Najim Laachraoui, is still on the run.

Laachraoui had the biggest bomb, but he left his bag, which blew up after bomb disposal teams came to the airport because the explosives had become unstable.

Police on Tuesday raided four houses in a massive, 12-hour search in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek.

In the apartment that served as the hideout of the suspects they found a flag with the logo of the Syria-based jihadist group Islamic State (IS) and bomb-making equipment.

The equipment included 15 kg of TATP - a substance used to make bombs - as well as 150 litres of acetone, 30 litres of liquid oxygen, detonators, a suitcase full of nails, screws and bolts, plastic trays, tools and a ventilator.

They also arrested one person.

Prosecutors suggested that the Brussels attacks were carried out earlier than planned because of the capture last Friday of Salah Abdeslam.

Abdeslam is the only survivor of the group who allegedly carried out the Paris attacks in November.

Police also found a laptop containing the “last will” of Ibrahim El Bakraoui in a dustbin near the Schaerbeek flat.

The Belgian prosecutor said El Bakraoui had written he was “in a rush”.

“I don't know what to do ... hunted everywhere ... no longer safe," he wrote, according to the prosecutors, adding that “if they [police] go on for too long, I risk end up in a cell next to him,” in what is likely to be a reference to Abdeslam.

Abdeslam had been hiding in a flat rented by Khalid El Bakraoui, according to fingerprints found there, and Belgian police had already begun searching for him.

The prosecutor confirmed earlier reports that a taxi driver who picked up the suspects in Schaerbeek tipped off the police. The driver called police after seeing a surveillance video of the suspects.

Van Leeuw said authorities knew of the brothers because of their criminal activity, but did not suspect that they were terrorists.

Belgian police is also looking for Laachraoui, who remains on the run.

Belgian police have said he is also suspected of having ties to the attacks in Paris, as his DNA was found on suicide vests used in the attacks.

Early on Wednesday, Belgian media reported that he had been captured in the Anderlecht neighbourhood of Brussels.

But while special police were present at the site, and according to neighbours an arrest was made early in the morning, it was not Laachraoui.

Laachraoui, a Belgian citizen born in Morocco, went to school in Schaerbeek and later trained in Syria as a fighter. Residents in Schaerbeek were tight lipped about him and his family.

The attacks in Brussels left 32 dead and 270 wounded, but the figure is feared to climb as some of the injured are in serious condition.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that one of the suspected attackers had been detained in Turkey and deported back to Belgium in June 2015.

According to the AFP news agency, Erdogan added that the Belgian authorities failed to confirm the suspect's links to terrorism “despite our warnings” following his deportation.

His comments raise more questions about how effectively Belgian authorities monitor those who go to fight for IS.

EU pushes for flight data bill after Brussels attacks

Leaders are asking for more intelligence sharing among EU states. But the message appears lost on some as EU states scramble to find a response to the intelligence gaps in the lead up to the Brussels attacks.

Security failures rock Belgian government

Prime minister Michel rejected the resignation of the interior and justice ministers after revelations that one of Tuesday's suicide bombers was freed last year.

Opinion

Living with terror

If you think it’s hard for adults to cope with the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, just think how hard it is for children.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us