Updated April 10, 2016 06:15:46
Belgian investigators have identified three of the attackers behind bomb attacks at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station, while the fourth man is thought to be a freelance journalist.
Three of the men carried out suicide bombings.
A fourth man fled the airport after his suitcase bomb failed to explode. Media in Belgium have identified him as Faycal Cheffou.
Here’s what we know about the suspects.
Najim Laachraoui, 24, a Moroccan-born bomb-maker who grew up in Brussels, has been identified as one of two suicide bombers at Brussels Airport .
Laachraoui was identified by DNA at the scene, according to Le Monde newspaper in France.
How the attacks unfolded
The Belgian capital has been rocked by a string of deadly attacks that have left at least 34 people dead.
The first target was the departure lounge at Brussels airport
- Two explosions rocked the lounge at about 8:00am local time, shattering windows, killing 14 people and sending travellers fleeing in panic.
- As the airport was evacuated reports emerge that two terrorists are behind the destruction.
- Local media reported another undetonated bomb was found at the airport, along with an assault rifle.
Shortly after the airport attack, a bomb exploded at a metro station in central Brussels
- The blast hit as the Maelbeek station was full of commuters on their way to work.
- At least 20 people were killed in the attack, which took place metres from the European Commission headquarters.
- Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level, locals were warned to stay inside and security is being boosted across Europe.
An unexploded bomb was discovered by police in a house in Schaerbeek
- Belgian police released a photo of the three people they believe are behind the attacks.
- Two of the suspects are thought to have died in the attacks, while a third man is still at large.
- After seeing the photo a taxi-driver remembered picking the men up from an address at Schaerbeek, not far from where the metro bomb detonated.
- Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
- The attacks came just four days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be one of the masterminds of the November Paris attacks.
- Belgian police had been on the lookout for revenge attacks after Abdeslam’s arrest.
He was originally believed to have fled the airport in a hat after his suitcase bomb failed to detonate. But Belgian media say police sources have now identified him as the second suicide bomber.
Laachraoui is suspected of making the explosive devices used in the Paris attacks in November, and had been the subject of an international arrest warrant since March 2014.
However, he had used a false name, Soufiane Kayal, to evade detection. Belgian prosecutors said he travelled to Syria in February 2013.
In September 2015, two months before the Paris attacks, he travelled back across the Austria-Hungary border — again using the name Soufiane Kayal — where he was met by Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks who was arrested last week .
A third man travelling with them, Mohamed Belkaid, was shot dead during last week’s raids.
Belgian investigators discovered Laachraoui’s true identity after the Paris attacks, and suspect he played a key role in making the explosive vests used in Paris.
He had also rented an apartment under the alias in Auvelais, south of Brussels, where it is believed much of the planning was done for the Paris attacks.
Laachraoui’s DNA was also found at an address on Rue Henri Berge at Schaarbeek, in Brussels, used by the terrorist cell.
It is unclear whether this is the same apartment in Schaarbeek from where the three suspects left by taxi for the airport on Tuesday.
Police tipped off by the taxi-driver found suitcases abandoned by the bombers, which contained nails and chemicals used for bomb-making.
Laachraoui was possibly linked to a bombing in Cairo in 2009 which killed a French woman named Cecile Vannier, according to Le Monde.
A neighbour who knew Laachraoui as he grew up told Europe 1 television in France his family were practising Muslims but “not at all radical”.
Laachraoui had been a “normal student” according to a spokesman at the Lycee Catholique Sainte-Famille. In 2009 he graduated from the school with a Diploma in Electronics.
Brothers – Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui
Belgium’s federal prosecutor confirmed that brothers Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, and Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, were behind the suicide attacks at both Brussels Airport and Maelbeek metro train station.
Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew himself up in the check-in hall of the airport while Khalid El Bakraoui attacked a train at Maelbeek station near European Union headquarters.
The brothers, identified by their fingerprints and security cameras, had a history of crime and had also recently emerged as being connected to the Paris attacks.
They were also known to US authorities and listed in American terrorism databases, according to television network NBC.
Ibrahim El Bakraoui was deported last year from Turkey after being detained near the Turkish-Syrian border and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Belgium ignored a warning that he was a militant.
“One of the attackers in Brussels is an individual we detained in Gaziantep in June 2015 and deported. We reported the deportation to the Belgian embassy in Ankara on July 14, 2015, but he was later set free,” Mr Erdogan said.
“Belgium ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter.”
Mr Erdogan’s office confirmed Ibrahim El Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands.
Mohamed Abrini, 31, a Belgian of Moroccan heritage, was arrested in the Brussels district of Anderlecht and later admitted he was the “man in the hat” seen in CCTV footage from Brussels Airport.
He was a childhood friend of Abdeslam and is believed to have played a support role in the preparations for the Paris attacks.
Abrini was caught on security camera at a petrol station in northern Paris, travelling with Abdeslam in the same car used to transport the attackers to Paris two days later.
Belgian prosecutors last year said Abrini was driving the same Renault Clio car that was later used by the attackers in the French capital. An accompanying police poster at the time described him as “dangerous and probably armed”.
Abrini’s family later told authorities he was not in Paris on the night of the attacks, and insisted he was innocent.
He was reportedly seen back in Brussels, at a bar in Molenbeek.
Belgian authorities have told local media that Abrini travelled to Syria in 2015.
On April 9, days after his arrest, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said Abrini admitted to being the “man in the hat” seen accompanying two suicide bombers at Brussels airport on March 22.
“We confronted him with the video evidence prepared by our special unit,” a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office said. “He had to admit it was him.”
Belgian man Faycal Cheffou was thought to be one of the bombers who attacked Brussels airport but did not blow himself up, instead fleeing the scene.
Prosecutors had arrested and charged “Faycal C” with taking part in a terrorist group and actual and attempted terrorist killings.
However, Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office later said they had released Faycal C, citing a lack of evidence to justify holding him
“The indications that led to the arrest of Faycal C were not substantiated by the ongoing inquiry,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“As a result, the subject has been released by the examining magistrate.”
Faycal, who local media had earlier said was a freelance journalist, was identified by a taxi driver who drove the attackers to the airport on March 22, Le Soir newspaper said.
Cheffou had been detained a number of times at a park where he sought to encourage asylum seekers camped there to turn to radical extremism, according to the mayor of Brussels, who described him as “dangerous”.
First posted March 24, 2016 19:42:06
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