Two Brothers Behind Suicide Attacks In Brussels

Police say the men had criminal records, while Turkey says it warned Belgium about one brother's terrorist ties last summer

Images showing what officials believe may be suspects. — REUTERS
Mar 23, 2016 at 3:37 AM ET

Two suspected suicide bombers in Tuesday’s Brussels attacks have been identified as brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui. The third man, pictured dressed in white, is believed to still be at large.

The brothers both had criminal records and are believed to be linked to a deadly string of terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November, the Guardian reports. Ibrahim el-Bakraoui was sentenced to almost a decade in jail in 2010 for shooting at police during a robbery, according to NBC News. His brother, Khalid, was arrested in 2011 for having Kalashnikov rifles. He was sentenced to 5 years in jail for “carjackings.”

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Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Belgium’s federal prosecutor, Frederic Van Leeuw, said the brothers were behind bombings at both the Brussels airport and the Maalbeek metro station, which were hit by a total of three explosions. According to Van Leeuw, Ibrahim was responsible for the first airport explosion, and Khalid was behind the subway bomb.

Investigators uncovered a computer, carrying a will, that they believe belonged to Ibrahim. They found the computer in a trash can when they raided the Schaerbeek neighborhood of Brussels on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. They also found a note from Ibrahim saying he felt “increasingly unsafe,” and was afraid of ending up in jail, according to the AP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, said Wednesday that Turkey had warned Belgium about Ibrahim el-Bakraoui’s terrorist ties last summer when it deported him into the custody of the Netherlands, according to NPR.

Earlier on Wednesday, local media reports said Najim Laachraoui, a third main suspect in Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels, was arrested. But Belgian media later said that the person detained was not Laachraoui, according to Reuters.

Official sources had not confirmed Laachraoui’s arrest, local Flemish-language news reported. But authorities have been hunting him in connection with deadly attacks in Paris in November. By early Wednesday ET, the manhunt for Laachraoui continued.

Vocativ uncovered a 2012 alumni newsletter from the Institut de le Sainte Famille d’Helmet, a Catholic high school from which Laachraoui graduated in 2009. The newsletter shows that Laachraoui studied electro-mechanical engineering at the school, located in a Brussels neighborhood.

The details emerged as Belgium remained on the highest security level, and as countries worldwide boosted airport security in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly explosions. Belgian officials have said several people potentially connected to the assaults remain at large.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s violence, which killed at least 34 people and injured scores of others, according to the Associated Press. The first victim has been identified as Adelma Tapia Ruiz, who died during the attack at Brussels Zaventem airport. The Peruvian mother of two twin girls had been living in Belgium for several years, and was waiting to board a plane with her husband when she was caught up in the blasts, reports said.

The U.S. State Department has alerted citizens of potential travel risks to and throughout Europe after the Brussels attacks. “Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation,” it said. “U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events.”

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels said in a security message that anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing.

On Wednesday, Eurostar—a major railway service linking Brussels to Paris and London—said its Brussels line was running normally, and urged travelers to plan extra time for checking in. Brussels airport, however, remained closed after shutting down on Tuesday.

France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport was evacuated early Wednesday morning after a security alert, reports said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.