Brussels airport suicide bombers were brothers El Bakraoui, Belgians hunt IS suspect

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Brussels (Reuters), Mar 23: The two suicide bombers who carried out the attacks in Brussels airport on Tuesday were brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui, Brussels residents known to the police for crime, the RTBF public broadcaster said, quoting an unnamed source.

Khalid, under a false name, had rented the flat in the Forest borough of the Belgian capital where police killed a gunman in a raid last week, RTBF said.

Investigators found after that raid an Islamic State flag, an assault rifle, detonators and a fingerprint of Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested three days later.

Both brothers have a criminal records, but have not been linked by the police to terrorism until now, RTBF said.

Meanwhile, Belgian police are hunting an Islamic State suspect seen with two supposed suicide bombers shortly before they struck Brussels Airport in the first of two attacks that also hit the city’s metro, killing at least 30 and wounding over 200.

The blasts on Tuesday claimed by the Syrian-based militants four days after the arrest in Brussels of a prime suspect in November’s Paris attacks, sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world, with authorities racing to review security at airports and transit systems, and drawing an outpouring of solidarity.

People gather around a memorial in Brussels following bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
People gather around a memorial in Brussels following bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

“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 election, suggested suspects could be tortured to avert such attacks.

Brussels police mounted an operation in the north of the city, turning up another bomb, an Islamic State flag and bomb-making chemicals in an apartment in the borough of Schaerbeek.

Local media said authorities had followed a tip from a taxi driver who believed he may have driven the bombers to the airport.

Investigators said they were focusing on a man in a hat who was caught on CCTV pushing a laden baggage trolley at the airport with two others they believed were the bombers. An unused explosive device was later found at the airport and a man was seen running away from the terminal after the explosions.

Security experts believed the blasts, which killed about 20 on a metro train running through the area that houses European Union institutions, were probably in preparation before Friday’s arrest of locally based French national Salah Abdeslam, 26, whom prosecutors accuse of a key role in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

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