Despite being unable to prevent yesterday’s attack, Belgian police are working quickly to round up the surviving attackers and planners – although we know, as with the arrest of the Paris bomber, that doesn’t mean more attacks aren’t in the works.
According to Reuters, Belgian police arrested a prime suspect in Tuesday’s Brussels blasts and identified two suspected suicide bombers, linking them directly to Islamic State militants behind last November’s Paris attacks, Belgian media reported on Wednesday.
Police and prosecutors refused immediate comment after several local media reported that Najim Laachraoui, 25, believed to be the man seen on CCTV pushing a baggage trolley alongside the bombers and then running out of the airport terminal, had been captured in the Brussels borough of Anderlecht.
One of the suspects seen on CCTV pushing baggage trolleys at Brussels airport just before the explosions was named as Brahim El Bakraoui, public broadcaster RTBF reported. It said his brother, Khalid, blew himself up on the metro train.
Both had criminal records but had not previously been linked by investigators to Islamist militants.
Laachraoui was wanted in connection with the Paris attacks. His DNA was found on almost all of the explosives belts used in those attacks and at a Brussels hideout used last week by prime Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested last Friday after a shoot-out with police.
RTBF said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name the apartment in the city’s Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week. He is also believed to have rented a a safe house in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used to mount last November’s Paris attacks.
The suspects were photographed pushing bags on trolleys, and witnesses said many of the airport dead and wounded were hit mostly in the legs, possibly indicating blasts at floor level.
However clearly, the threat to Europe is not over. As we reported last night, in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Brussels, the U.S. State Department has issued a rare warning to U.S. citizens about travel to Europe. All of Europe.
The alert warns of terrorist plans for “near-term attacks throughout Europe.” Scary times, indeed.
[Note: This article was written by Michele Hickford]