Brussels suicide brothers are the link to Paris carnage
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoThe two brothers who blew themselves up in the deadly train and airport attacks in Brussels were known by police for serious crimes and are linked to last November’s Paris massacre.
Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui are Belgian nationals with major convictions “not linked to terrorism,” federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said at a dramatic news briefing on March 23.
Khalid, 27, who blew himself up on March 22 at the Maalbeek metro station, is a convicted car-jacker.
His brother Ibrahim, 30, who was one of two suicide bombers at the airport, had been handed a nine-year sentence for firing his gun at police, local media say.
The Belgian prosecutor said two suspects in the bombings at the Brussels airport have still not yet been identified - one of them is a dead suicide bomber and the other is still on the loose.
Both of the attacks at the metro station and the airport have killed 31 people and 270 others, the prosecutor said.
The pair entered the public eye on March 15 when police raided an apartment in the Forest district of Brussels, as part of the investigation into the Paris attacks.
Belgian media reports said a joint squad of Belgian and French police approached the property because it was rented under a false name used by Khalid to secure a hideout months earlier for the Paris attackers.
Khalid is suspected of having rented other properties used to prepare the November 2015 tragedy in Paris, including one in the city of Charleroi from where ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud set off to lead the assault in the French capital.
The police last week fully expected to find an abandoned property as utilities in the Brussels apartment had been shut off for weeks.
Instead they came under heavy gunfire, with one assailant killed and two men fleeing - including, it is thought, Salah Abdeslam, the top Paris fugitive who would be arrested three days later.
The brothers are not believed to have been present in those events, but their connection to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was established.
Police investigating the Brussels attacks also found 15 kilograms of TATP high explosives and a mass of bomb-making material during searches in the Schaerbeek district of the Belgian capital, the federal prosecutor said.
Van Leeuw said police also found 150 liters of acetone, detonators, bags filled with nails plus other equipment used to make bombs of the type used in the attacks which killed 31 people and wounded another 270.
TATP high explosives have been used extensively by ISIL jihadists.