Kabul(Reuters): A suicide bomber in a car blew himself up close to a police checkpoint…
Brussels: The attacks in Brussels on Tuesday were carried out by two brothers who detonated suicide bombs, Belgian officials said on Wednesday, as the police continued an intense hunt for at least one other participant in the attacks. The toll from the assaults stood at 31 dead and 270 injured.
The brothers – Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29, and Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27 – were Belgian and had criminal records, officials said. But the pair had no known links to terrorism until the authorities conducted a raid on March 15 on an apartment in the Forest district of Brussels, as part of the investigation into the November 13 attacks in Paris.
Ibrahim and another man blew themselves up at the airport at 7.58am – in two explosions, nine seconds apart – and then Khalid carried out a suicide attack at the Maelbeek subway station around an hour later, Frédéric Van Leeuw, the Belgian federal prosecutor, said at a news conference. It was not immediately clear whether Khalid also participated in the airport attacks.
The search continued for a man who was recorded by a security camera alongside Ibrahim at the airport, who was believed to have fled.
After the attacks, a taxi driver approached the police and led them to a house on Rue Max Roos, in the Schaerbeek section of Brussels, where he had picked up three men, according to Van Leeuw. There, the authorities found about 33 pounds of the explosive material TATP – a large amount. By comparison, officials say the suicide belts used by the Paris attackers each contained less than a pound of TATP.
At the house in Schaerbeek, investigators also found nearly 40 gallons of acetone and nearly eight gallons of hydrogen peroxide. Acetone, a solvent found in nail polish remover, and hydrogen peroxide, found in hair bleach, are among the ingredients used to make TATP.
The investigators also found detonators, a suitcase full of nails and screws, and other materials that could be used to make explosive devices.
In a trash can on the Rue Max Roos, investigators found a computer with Ibrahim’s last will on it. In the document, he said he no longer felt safe, did not know what to do and feared that if he dallied, he would end up in jail “next to him in a cell”. It was not immediately clear if “him” referred to Salah Abdeslam, who was captured on Friday and charged with terrorist murder over the Paris attacks.
The note read: “I do not know what to do. I am on the run, people are looking for me everywhere. If I give myself up, I will end up next to him in a cell.”
Several Belgian news outlets reported last week that the Bakraoui brothers had been wanted since the March 15 raid. It was not clear why the authorities had not asked the public to help find them.
Khalid is believed to have rented the apartment in Forest under a false name, and another in Charleroi, Belgium. The raid in Forest turned up Abdeslam’s fingerprints.
Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 for shooting at police officers after the attempted robbery of a currency exchange office. In 2011, Khalid was convicted on charges of attempted carjacking; at the time of his arrest, he had been in possession of assault rifles.
Speaking on Belgian radio, interior minister Jan Jambon discounted speculation that the attacks were reprisals for the arrest of Abdeslam, saying it was unlikely that terrorists “could have launched attacks of a scale seen yesterday in two, three days”.
Belgium remained in a state of mourning and on the highest state of alert.