Belgian authorities have launched a massive manhunt for Najim Laachraoui, the only surviving prime suspect in Tuesday’s Brussels bombings.
Two brothers from Brussels, Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, have been identified as the suspected suicide bombers in Tuesday’s deadly attacks.
Another suspect, identified by police as Laachraoui, 24 years old, was believed to have escaped the scene of the bombing at Zaventem Airport. Laachraoui was also suspected of involvement in the Paris terror attacks.
Tuesday’s attacks on the Brussels airport and a metro station left 31 people dead and 270 people injured and sent shockwaves through the whole country.
The brothers were known to police but not for terrorism, Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said at a press conference Wednesday.In 2010, Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison by the Brussels criminal court for shooting at police with a Kalashnikov during a robbery. In early 2011, Khalid El Bakraoui was arrested for possession of Kalashnikovs and had been sentenced to five years in prison for carjackings.
A CCTV picture released by police shows three men, two wearing a black glove each (left and middle) and one to the right, wearing white. The Belgian prosecutor said that fingerprints had confirmed thatIbrahim El Bakraoui was one of the bombers at the airport (the man in the middle of the CCTV image) and his brother Khalid El Bakraoui was the suicide bomber at the Metro station.
The other men in the CCTV image – who are believed to be the second and third airport bombers – remain unidentified, according to the prosecutor. Earlier police sources, cited by NBC, said Laachraoui was the man in white pictured on the CCTV photo, (on the right wearing a hat and glasses). Belgian authorities have not confirmed the name of this third person who is still being sought by police.
Meanwhile, one unidentified person was detained in a raid on Tuesday evening in the Schaerbeek area, according to the authorities. Another raid on Tuesday discovered 150 kilograms of explosives, detonators, a suitcase full of nails and screws. Police have also found what they believe to be the suicide note of Ibrahim El Bakraoui.
According to the Belgian prosecutor’s office, Laachraoui also used the false identity of Soufiane Kayal. That alias links him directly with Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of being involved in the Paris attacks on November 13 last year when gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a sports stadium, restaurants and bars.
On September 9, 2015, Abdeslam was checked at the border between Hungary and Austria while driving a Mercedes. He was accompanied by two people using fake Belgian identity cards with the names of Samir Bouzid (Mohammed Belkaid, who was killed in a police raid in the Brussels neighborhood of Forest last week) and Soufiane Kayal, NBC said.
Belgian media added that Khalid, using a false name, had rented an apartment in Forest, where police were involved in the shootout last week.